Italian wedding cookies look and sound so fancy, but they’re easier to make than you think.
If simple and sophisticated is what you’re looking for, this dessert is for you.
They go by many names – Russian tea cakes, polvorones, butterballs, and Mexican wedding cookies, to name a few.
Some are flavored with lemon, others, anise. Some are made with ground-up almonds, and others with walnuts or pecans.
While they slightly vary in flavor, one thing they have in common is their melt-in-your-mouth texture.
These Italian wedding cookies are incredibly soft, buttery, crumbly, and nutty.
They may not have the usual chocolate chips, but trust me, they’re just as addictive… maybe even more so.
Now, don’t feel like you only need to serve or eat them at a wedding.
Birthdays, bridal showers, Christmas, random Thursday – these cookies are perfect for every occasion.
Are you ready for these holiday-worthy cookies? Put on your apron and let’s get to it.
Italian Wedding Cookies Recipe
Called anginetti or ancinetti, Italian wedding cookies are soft and pillowy, light and airy shortbread cookies mainly made from ground-up almonds and butter.
The cookies are traditionally flavored with anise and covered in a sugar glaze and dressed with colored nonpareils.
However, for this version, the flavor mostly comes from almonds, butter, and vanilla.
They’re also frosted with powdered sugar to create a magnificent, snowball look.
I love how the powdered sugar coating melts in your mouth.
The shortbread cookies have a wonderful texture, as well. They crumble like sand and melt as you chew.
The flavor is very light, not overly sweet, which makes them even more addictive.
These cookies are so sinful and heavenly that they’re mostly reserved for weddings and special occasions.
But because they’re such a breeze to make, there’s no need to wait for a holiday. Just whip them up any day!
How to Keep the Cookies Ball Shaped
The cookie dough will be a little sticky. You may need to refrigerate it for 30 minutes to an hour before shaping and baking.
Is Powdered Sugar the Same Thing as Confectioner’s Sugar?
Yup, they’re one and the same – fine, powdery ground-up white sugar mixed with a bit of sugar to prevent clumping.
Tips for Making The Best Cookies
- For a nuttier flavor, toast the almonds beforehand. Just place them on a baking sheet and pop in a 325-degree-Fahrenheit oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Wait for them to cool for 10 minutes before grinding. If you don’t like the added effort, just get store-bought toasted almonds.
- You can get pre-ground almonds, or ground the almonds yourself. The best way to get finely ground almonds is by using a food processor. Pulse them in short bursts. Processing them continuously will give you an oily almond paste.
- Use cold, softened butter so that it’ll easily meld with the rest of the ingredients and prevent a clumpy dough. Take the butter out of the fridge 10 minutes before use. If you forget, just pop it in the microwave in 15-second increments until softened, but not warm.
- The cookie dough will be very thick and stiff, so it’s best to use a stand or electric mixer to combine the ingredients. However, it’s best to add the flour with a spatula to keep from overmixing. You can also use a mixer on the lowest setting, but stop mixing just before the flour is all combined.
- Don’t grease the cookies sheets with butter, or the cookies will spread. The cookies have a lot of butter in them, so you don’t really need to worry about them sticking to the pan. If you want to be sure, you can line your pan with parchment paper, or use a silicone mat.
- Use an ice cream scoop to get uniform cookie sizes. The diameter shouldn’t go over 1 inch, otherwise, the cookies will be underbaked in the middle.
- While the cookies won’t spread, you should still make sure they don’t touch each other when arranging them on the pan. If they do, they’ll lose their shape.
- Coat the cookies in powdered sugar as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Then, once they cool completely, roll them in sugar again. This will create that elegant snowball look.
- Powdered sugar tends to be clumpy, so be sure to sift it first. Remove any small “rocks” so they don’t end up in the dough.
- Do not over-bake the cookies. You won’t want a golden brown finish for these treats. Fifteen to 20 minutes are more than enough.
- The cookies are best served either warm or at room temperature. If you plan to eat them later, you will need to add extra powdered sugar before serving.
- Store leftovers in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, or in the fridge for a week. You can also freeze the cookies, either unbaked or baked, for a longer shelf-life – up to 3 months.
- Place them on a baking sheet and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until rock-solid. Transfer them into a freezer-safe bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal.
- You can bake frozen cookie dough balls straight from the freezer. Just add 1 to 2 minutes to the baking time.
- Traditional Italian wedding cookies call for ground walnuts, but other nuts could work, too. Try the recipe with walnuts, macadamias, pistachios, pecans, or hazelnuts. Just be sure to ground them up finely beforehand.
- Everything tastes better with chocolate, so feel free to load the dough with chocolate chips. You can also stuff a chocolate kiss in the middle for added pizazz.
- For a deeper almond flavor, use almond extract instead of vanilla. Just be careful as it’s quite strong.
- Want these cookies vegan-friendly? All it takes is one easy swap: vegan instead of regular butter.
- If you’re serving these cookies for Christmas, a good way to give them a holiday feel is by loading the dough with peppermint bits. Or, roll them in crushed candy canes instead of powdered sugar.
- Give them a comforting fall flavor by adding cinnamon or pumpkin spice to the dough. These are perfect for Thanksgiving.
- For traditional anginetti, coat the cookies in a sweet vanilla glaze and top them with rainbow nonpareils or sprinkles. To make the glaze, just whisk together 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup warm milk, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
- Glaze the cookies immediately after taking them out of the oven.
- For easy clean-up, I suggest you place a sheet of wax paper underneath the cooling rack.
- Wait for the glaze to cool completely before adding the sprinkles so they won’t bleed into the glaze.
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