Today I have for you a favorite Italian holiday recipe of ours and one I make frequently for Christmas gatherings. Lemon ricotta cookies! These cookies are the perfect bite size and are so soft and tender that they’ll disappear before you know it. Easy to make and great to make ahead!
I decided my ricotta cookies needed a makeover with new photos and more info, so I’ve done the hard work of making (and eating) Christmas cookies in November. 🙂 Though don’t just have these at Christmas! Change up the sprinkles and you have a dessert ready for any holiday or occasion.
When I made these previously it was in my first holiday season on the blog and I did a cookie week just to get things rolling. The other recipes I did back then were Chocolate Almond Stuffed Cookies and classic Pecan Snowball Cookies. No updates on those photos yet, so you can enjoy seeing how much I’ve grown in food photography.
Italian Holiday Cookies
If you grew up (as I did) in an Italian American family, you may have had these made by your Grandma (or Nonna or Noni as we use in our family). They may have been flavored with anise instead of lemon, but that soft and tender texture cannot be denied.
I do have a couple of tips to help your holiday baking go smoothly:
What do you need?
- Dry Ingredients – Flour, Salt, Baking Soda
- Butter and sugar – The backbone of a fluffy cookie.
- Ricotta – It’s in the name! Try for a ricotta with no additives (like gum or stabilizers) if you can find it.
- Lemon Zest – For plenty of lemony flavor.
- Egg – Structure and tenderness.
- Lemon Glaze – Confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, and a little cream cheese.
- Sprinkles! – Gotta have sprinkles. Choose your favorite.
How to make this
To make ricotta cookies, cream together butter and sugar then add ricotta, egg, and lemon zest. Mix in flour to make a soft dough. Scoop out teaspoon sized amounts of dough onto a baking sheet and bake until done. Top with lemon glaze and sprinkles.
Can you freeze these?
Yes. You can freeze the dough or the (unglazed) cookies for up to 2 months when well wrapped.
Using up the ricotta
There are so many ways to use up the ricotta! Stir it into your pasta, sweeten it and have it for breakfast like yogurt, dollop some on pizza.
For some specific recipes, you can go sweet and make Ricotta Cannoli Pancakes or Lemon Blueberry Ricotta Muffins. Or you can go savory with Ground Beef Skillet Pasta and Ricotta or or Summer Squash and Ricotta Crostata. Check out my ricotta tag for more ideas on using it up.
If you try my recipe for Italian ricotta cookies, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Italian Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- 2 cups (10 oz) all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 8 tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, cool room temperature
- 1 cup (7 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) ricotta, whole or part skim
- 1 large egg
- lemon zest from one lemon
- 1 tbsp cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cups (8 oz) confectioners' sugar
- 3 tbsp colored sugar, optional
Mix the Batter
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a standing mixer with the flat beater, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
- With the mixer on medium, add the ricotta, egg, and lemon zest mix until throughly blended.
- Pour in the flour mixture and mix on low until just blended, but with some dry flour remaining. Use a large silicone spatula to give the dough a couple of quick turns.
- Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and chill for 20-30 minutes.
Bake the Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spoon the chilled dough out onto baking sheet using a #100 cookie scoop (or a teaspoon if you don't have a scoop), spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 11-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for one minute and then use a spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack. Cool completely.
Make the Lemon Glaze
- In a large bowl combine all the glaze ingredients and beat with a mixer until the glaze is smooth. The glaze should be thick but still flow from the beaters when you lift them.
- Take each cookie and dip it top down into the glaze. Lift it out of the glaze while you twist it a little keeping it facing down to allow excess glaze to drip off. Then flip it up while trying to get the little bit of glaze that is still dripping down to fall onto the top of the cookie.
- While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle with a little colored sugar.
- Lemon Glaze: If the glaze does not stick, the problem is that it is too thick so add more lemon juice or a bit of milk by the teaspoon. If the glaze just runs right off, the problem is that it is too thin so add more confectioners' sugar a tablespoon at a time.
- Larger cookies: To make tablespoon sized cookies, increase the cooking time to 13 minutes and you'll have about 35-40 cookies.
- Cookie Scoop: I use a Zeroll teaspoon (#100) sized scoop for the recipe.
- Resting the Dough: Chilling the dough makes it much easier to work with when portioning it out. You will have more even and rounder cookies after the rest.
- Make-ahead: The dough can be wrapped up and kept overnight in the refrigerator or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Or the unglazed cookies can be frozen and kept for up to 2 months.
First published December 2015. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.