Cookies are the crown jewels of Italian confections and are an absolute must for your typical Italian family gatherings. It can’t be an Italian holiday without a traditional cookie platter. The most beloved Italian Christmas cookies vary by region, but the Muriniaddi, Amaretti, Mostaccioli, almond crescent cookie and biscotti are a few nonna-approved Italian classics.
As you prepare for your holiday festivities, we’re exploring the traditional Italian Christmas cookies that cannot be missed, including time-tested centuries-old treats passed down through the generations. We spoke to Italian food experts Ariane Laezza, founder of Nonna Life, Michelle Jobin, TV personality and Luciano Schipano, Italian chef, to share with us their personal favourites.
Luciano Schipano’s favourite Christmas cookie
Luciano Schipano, a celebrated Italian caterer and private chef based in Toronto, is a culinary artist with a deep appreciation for old-school traditions. His favourite Italian Christmas cookie is the Muriniaddi, a traditional Italian treat and a cherished part of his family’s traditions. This cookie is known by various names across Italian regions, including the Calabrese Turdilli, but is usually called Muriniaddi or ravioli in Schipano’s home village of Olivadi.
The Muriniaddi cookie is a very simple cookie made of flour, sugar, olive oil, baking powder, wine and honey. Despite being fried, its texture remains fluffy and light. The cookie has the shape of a gnocchi but is bigger, like a walnut.
For Luciano, the Muriniaddi cookie carries sentimental value tied to cherished memories of his grandfather. Luciano fondly recalls, “My grandfather made these cookies in the fireplace. My cousins and I would sit around the fireplace with my grandfather and eat the cookies right off the pan as they came out the fireplace.”
Recognizing the gradual fading of traditional recipes, Luciano is on a mission to preserve culinary heritage. He diligently continues the tradition, making these cookies with his grandfather’s tailored recipe on December 24 each year. Reflecting on the process, he shares, “When you make these cookies, you don’t make one batch, you make 10 batches. You call your cousins, aunts and uncles to come help and spend the day together. You send a little plate to everyone in your family to share the joy of the holiday, and they do the same to you. It is a beautiful exchange.”
Ariane Laezza’s favourite Christmas cookie
Amaretti cookies with red maraschino cherries
Ariane Laezza, founder of the esteemed Italian lifestyle brand Nonna Life, finds it impossible to choose just one favourite cookie. She shares, “Part of the fun is having a variety of them around. I love all their different shapes, colours and textures. They create a beautiful aesthetic on a table and are beautiful gifts to bring to someone’s home. They’re like mini sculptural works of art!”
Among her favourites are amaretti cookies, a Christmas classic. These traditional Italian cookies are made with almond flour, sugar, whipped egg whites and almond extract. They are soft, chewy and delicious. Ariane shares, “During this time of year, they can be made more festive with red or green colouring. I love the ones decorated with red or green maraschino cherries!”
Ariane also loves almond crescent cookies. “They are similar to shortbread and covered in powdered sugar.” A newfound favourite of Ariane is mostaccioli “My nonna used to make mostaccioli at Christmas: a cake-like chocolate cookie flavoured with cloves and cinnamon. I didn’t love these as a kid but now I am super nostalgic for them! I also love that most of these cookies are almond-based, it gives them a nice consistency and really lovely, nutty flavour. These cookies remind me of sitting around the table at Nonna’s, with the smell of a freshly brewed moka pot in the air, as everyone chats and laughs while sipping on espresso, wine or digestivo. Dipping them in coffee and taking a bite of an espresso-soaked cookie opens up a flood of emotions and nostalgia.”
Ariane shares “One day perhaps I’ll make them myself as part of a holiday tradition, but for now I will leave it to the experts. I love going to the bakery and getting a pastry box that is wrapped in ribbon. I usually go to Tre Mari on St. Clair or Irene’s Celebrity Cakes in Mississauga. If I’m lucky enough to receive someone’s homemade cookies, that’s even better.”
Michelle Jobin’s favourite Christmas cookie
A variety of Forno Cultura cookies
Michelle Jobin is a seasoned TV personality from Toronto. She began working in the hospitality industry before transitioning to TV and her love for food and the hospitality industry carried over, bringing her to host Toronto Dining, a show devoted to the diverse food scene in Canada’s largest city.
Her holiday favourites are the Mosaico Biscotti cookie and Amaretti cookie from Forno Cultura. “There is a wonderful selection of Italian cookies at Forno Cultura. The Mosaico Biscotti cookies are my favourite. It is a biscotto with chocolate and pistachio. The amaretti cookies are wonderful as well. They are soft, chewy and not too sweet.”
While Michelle enjoys these cookies throughout the year, she particularly likes to stop in at Forno Cultura to enjoy a macchiato and cookie as a warm and cozy escape during the winter months. She purchases these cookies for her family to enjoy year-round but she particularly enjoys purchasing them as gifts during the holiday season.
Each cookie embodies not just the essence of Italian cuisine but also the love and camaraderie that defines the holiday season. May these sweet creations bring joy and warmth to your festivities, evoke memories, create new memories and celebrate family traditions passed down through generations.