Sweet and crumbly, with a hint of salt and vanilla. These Christmas sugar cookies are super easy to make and are the classic Italian Christmas cookies. They're not linked to any regional traditional recipe, they're simple and humble and that's why everybody loves them! A double dough of chocolate and vanilla to please everybody. They will make a beautiful cookie box to gift to your family and friends.
When I was little my aunt used to gift cookie boxes to the whole family. I still remember those cookies. Sweet, crumbly and with that fantastic hint of salt which made all the difference from the usual sugar cookies.
I tried many years to recreate them but failed many times. This time I finally made it! From the first bite, I immediately went back to my childhood and felt the same kid eating those delicious cookies.
If you love simple Christmas cookies and love to make them with or for your family. You'll certainly love this recipe.
What are Italian Sugar Cookies?
In Italy, we call them "Pastafrolla" cookies. They have a crumbly, buttery dough which it's used in Italy to make cookies and "Crostate". They are a mix between shortbread and sugar cookies and that's what makes them so delicious.
The classic shortbread recipe follows the 3:2:1 ratio, 3 parts of flour, 2 parts of butter, and 1 part of sugar. But the Pastafrolla recipe in Italy has many small variations to make more or less crumbly, with the addition of eggs which makes it more similar to the classic American sugar cookies. For these cookies for example, the 3:2:1 ratio is not exactly followed, plus it has the addition of 1 egg. This is to make the dough easier to roll out and cut out with cookie cutters.
How to make the Best Italian Christmas Cookies
You can use a food processor to make the dough, which is very fast and easy. But if you don't have one, you can also do it by hand.
Add in the food processor the cold butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix at low speed for a few seconds until the butter is all chopped up. Then add the egg, flour, and baking powder and mix again for a minute or two until the dough starts coming together.
Divide the mix into 2 bowls and in one add the cocoa powder. Knead well with your hands until the dough comes together into a smooth and solid ball. At this point, it shouldn't crumble anymore. Cover both doughs in plastic wrap and flatten it into a disk so later it will be easier to roll out. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Use this time to preheat the oven.
Now comes the fun part! On a wooden board or table dusted with flour, roll out the cookie dough with a rolling pin and cut out all the shapes with a cookie cutter. Place them on a lined cookie sheet and bake! When you take them out of the oven transfer them immediately to a cooling rack and let them cool down completely before you decorate them.
Why do you put the dough in the fridge before baking?
While kneading the dough, the butter will start melting from the heat of your hands and the temperature of the room. it's important that the butter is as cold and solid as possible before you put your cookies in the oven, overwise they might lose their shape and consistency.
To do so, it's important to chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so that the butter will solidify again. Use this time to preheat the oven. After the chilling time, you can immediately roll the dough, cut out your cookies, and bake them.
How to Decorate the Cookies
I personally like homemade cookies as they are, simple and plain, like shortbread. The only decoration I do is to add a little bit of melted dark chocolate (simply melted in the microwave) on some and salt flakes on some. But of course, you can do all the decorations that you like.
You can add icing, sprinkles, chocolate, candied fruits, and more! Since they keep their shape very well and they are nice and flat, you can decorate them just like any sugar cookie, with a simple sugar icing.
FAQ & Tips
Yes, you can freeze the baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 months. If you stack them, make sure you separate the layers with parchment paper.
If stored properly, in a cookie tin box or airtight container, they can keep they flavor and consistency for about 5-7 days. After 1 week, they will start to become dry but they will still be edible for up to 2 weeks.
I found that the cookies thick about ¼ inch ( 6 mm) were the ones cooked perfectly and with the best consistency, crumbly and soft. If you roll them too thin, they will easily overcook and become very crunchy. If you roll them too thick they might be undercook and stay too soft.
If you like this recipe, try also these other cookie recipes:
Italian Christmas Sugar Cookies
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- ½ cup Sugar
- 5.3 oz Butter
- 1 Egg
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Baking powder
- 2 tablespoon Cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoon Dark Chocolate, optional
- In a food processor, add the cold butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix at low speed for a few seconds until the butter is all chopped up.
- Add the egg, flour, and baking powder and mix again for a minute or two until the dough starts coming together.
- Divide the mix into 2 bowls and in one add the cocoa powder. Knead well with your hands until the dough comes together into a smooth and solid ball. At this point, it shouldn't crumble anymore.
- Cover both doughs in plastic wrap and flatten it into a disk so it will be easier to roll out.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven at 350°F / 180°C.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and place it on a wooden board or table dusted with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin about ¼ inch (6mm) thick and cut out the shapes with cookie cutters.
- Transfer the cookies to a lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
- Take them out of the oven and transfer them immediately (carefully!) to a cooling rack and let them cool down completely before you decorate them.
- You can melt a couple of tablespoons of dark chocolate for a minute in the microwave and drizzle the melted chocolate on the cookies with a teaspoon.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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