Italian Cookies are a not-too-sweet treat with a very subtle licorice flavor. I’ve decorated them with some fun green sprinkles for St. Patrick’s Day.
These cookies have been on my baking bucket list for a while now. A sweet, long time Barbara Bakes reader, Carol, shared the recipe with me and told me she makes them every Christmas. I ran out of time to bake them for Christmas, but decided they would be a fun cookie to make for St. Patrick’s Day. Even though they’re Italian and not Irish.
Carol said she loves this “recipe because it’s easy and makes a lot of cookies. They look pretty on a plate and they taste good too! They’re always a hit no matter where I take them.” Carol cut the recipe out of a Boston newspaper almost 40 years ago and has been making them ever since.
The cookies have a very tender texture that’s kind of a cross between a shortbread cookie and a cake. It’s a low sugar cookie and the icing provides most of the sweetness.
I was a little apprehensive about using anise extract. I really like black licorice, which has a strong anise flavor, but I didn’t need to be concerned. The cookies have a very subtle anise flavor that’s almost an aftertaste. You may not even recognize it if you didn’t know it was in the cookies.
Next time you’re baking for a crowd, give this crowd-pleasing recipe a try.
Italian Cookies for St. Patrick’s Day
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons baking powder*
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter or margarine
- ¼ cup shortening
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons anise extract can use vanilla or lemon extract instead
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar sifted
- 2-4 tablespoons milk
- Colorful spinkles optional
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and shortening. Add the sugar and melted butter mixture to a mixing bowl; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the anise extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. If the dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add flour until firmer, but it should be very soft.
- Roll dough in small balls (these tend to really puff up with all the baking powder in them!) and place on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes (the bottom should be lightly browned but the tops should remain light). Remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely before glazing.
- Gradually mix milk into confectioners' sugar to make a thick glaze...make sure to keep it on the thick side. Dip top of each cookie into glaze. Sprinkle with colored jimmies or nonpareils while glaze is still wet. (I usually dip 10-12 cookies, return them to the wire rack (with wax paper under the racks to aid in clean up!) and then sprinkle those cookies before starting to dip more.) Makes a lot of cookies, depending on how large you roll them.
More St. Patrick’s Day recipes you might like:
Pistachio Key Lime Shortbread Cookies
Thin Mint Fudge Brownies, Inside BruCrew Life
Rainbow Cookies, Pint Sized Baker
Healthy Copycat Shamrock Shake, Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Lila R Feldman
When you combine Irish and Italian, you call it ” Gaelic and Garlic” !
Good to know lol
Oh, these are so good. Carol sent some to me when we were blogging together & I didn’t want to share. Naughty me 🤭
Thanks Cyndy! Sometimes sharing is hard lol.
I can’t wait to try this recipe. My grandma used to make cookies every Christmas but she would sprinkle powder sugar on top. She never wrote down her recipes and it was hard for her to tell you how she made them. We have all tried to duplicate them but they never come out like hers. I think this one just might be the one. Thank you so much
Great – let me know 🙂
I just made these and they were excellent! Took me right back to my childhood. My great grandmother always had this type of cookie around. I iced half of them and left the others plain for enjoying with coffee. Thank you for sharing!
Rocky Mountain Woman
These would be perfect for my book club. Maybe with a little different decoration, but I find too sweet of treats don’t go as well with that group. Gonna try em!
Love the tried and true recipes. These look like a treat for any occasion! 🙂
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
They sound delicious and baking them for 40 years must mean that they’ve stood the test of time! 😀 xxx
These are so cute! Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!!!
Annamaria @ Bakewell Junction
The cookies look delicious. I love tried and true recipes. Like you, I don’t think I would have been able to wait until next Christmas to make them. How clever to give them an Irish twist for the up-coming holiday.
These are darling! Italian and Irish, such a great mash-up!
2 Sisters Recipes by anna and liz
We make these Italian cookies all the time, and just love that you made them with a subtle licorice flavor. Adorable for St. Paddy’s Day and a great idea for me too!
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
Your St Patrick’s Day cookies bring a smile to my face. I need to get with the holidays, obviously. You’re so on top of things. 🙂
Letty @ Letty's Kitchen
Italian and Irish pairings in marriage are common in the East–New England and New York. I have some fiery lovely girlfriends with such lineage. These cookies sound wonderful.
Carol at Wild Goose Tea
Italian cookies for an Irish holiday—I like it. Food brings the world together. I had to pin this recipe. I make a lot of cookies, but I don’t think I have one that is sort of short bread with anise. YUM! Frosting is always good too.
Hi Barbara…I’m SO glad you like these….they came out so pretty! I just LOVE sprinkles on cookies-they make me smile. Those green ones are PERFECT for St. Patrick’s Day.
Now from what I hear, EVERYONE’S Irish on St. Patrick’s Day….even Italian Cookies. 🙂 Shoot, we love these ANY time of the year-they’re kind of addictive….hard to eat just one. They’re a great go-to cookie when you want something a little different-always a hit at bridal and baby showers too.
Thanks SO much for your wonderful review and the absolutely gorgeous photos. You’ve got me craving these. I may have to make a batch soon.
Melissa @ My Recent Favorite books
These sound delicious for any Holiday! I have a weakness for cookies…