Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.
Italian Christmas cookies are a favorite of mine. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of Italian pastries and desserts. I can give or take a “lobster” tail. Italian American cannoli are simply not for me. And the cakes soaked in alcohol taste like someone wet them with a water pistol. I understand wanting moist cake, but wet cake is yucky. Maybe it’s just me. The entire country of Italy seems to disagree with me.
But I can always get behind a cookie. Italian pastry shops offer loads of them this time of year. Rather than rely on the pastry shop (and pay such a high bill), I decided to try my hand at making these babies. In fact, I’m gifting boxes of my sweet delights on Christmas Eve. Learn how to do the same:
Italian Sandwich Cookies
This was my first attempt at Italian sandwich cookies. I learned how to use my cookie press/decorating kit for this one. You use the star tip to form the cookies for the sandwich. It tries your patience. After the dough oozes out the top and the bottom falls off for the millionth time, you start to lose your cool. Just as you’re about to throw the whole thing against the wall, a miracle happens. It starts to work, and you find your rhythm.
Suddenly, you’re popping out cookie form after cookie form. I was a little trigger happy. That’s why my cookies are huge (err, yyyyuuugggeee). I’ll do better next time. I promise to make them slimmer. Use the Food Network’s recipe for Italian sandwich sandwiches. Instead of raspberry jam, I used strawberry preserves in between cookie layers. (My husband hates raspberry.) And I also nixed the oil. I just melted milk chocolate chips in the microwave for dipping the sandwich.
I’ve become famous for these pignoli cookies. When my grandfather Rocco visited me for the last Christmas before he passed away, he ate two of these cookies. He wasn’t eating much of anything in those days and he rarely ate sweets anyway, so it was a big deal. My grandmother and cousins love ’em, so I make them every year. When I whipped up a bath for my sister’s birthday a few years back, her American friends in Florida were blown away.
The good news is this recipe is the easiest to make, especially if you have a food processor. I use the Food Network recipe for this one, too. I actually follow it word for word. But I have swapped a mandarin or clementine for an orange whenever that’s what I have on hand. I only make these once or twice a year because the price of pine nuts keeps going up. It’s super expensive. But it would not be Christmas without them now.
In the past, I may have made these one or two other times. But this Christmas I felt a pull. I had to have them. It might have been because my husband and I both bought giant tubs of ricotta, which have been mocking us in the fridge. In any event, when the Betty Crocker recipe for them landed in my emailbox, I could not resist.
What I love about this cookie is how easy it is to make. This is perfect for gift giving because you can make many without breaking much of a sweat. They also happen to be delicious. Indeed, I will be needing my fat pants far sooner than anticipated unless I give these away soon. Use the Betty Crocker Italian Christmas Cookies recipe for best results.
Italian Rainbow Cookies
Readers of this site know of my family’s love for Italian rainbow cookies, also known as tri-color cookies. Already I have detailed how to make this cake. You can get access to the recipe right here on this site, and see how we presented it as a robot for my son’s birthday. For Christmas, I added a “string of lights.” But I was also thinking of piping on a snowflake or just some festive holiday-colored sprinkles. The beauty of this cake is that you can use the top as a canvas, so it fits into any theme.
Now, I recommend cutting the cake into squares, brownie-style. You can also cut it up ahead of time and divide the cookies among the trays or boxes. People go crazy for these cookies, so be prepared to get asked to make them over and over again.