My soft, super moist Italian ricotta cookies are an incredibly easy-to-make classic holiday cookie that's also incredibly delicious! Tender, sweet, yet slightly tangy cookies are covered with a bright lemon glaze and then topped with festive sprinkles!
Moist, tender, and melt in your mouth – these Italian ricotta cookies are going to be a new favorite!
Cookies are undoubtedly one of the best parts of the holiday season! These classic Italian ricotta cookies (aka Italian Christmas cookies) are going to be a wonderful addition to the cookie rotation!
Italian ricotta cookies are a traditional family classic for so many. They’re tender, moist, cake-like cookies that are topped with an amazing glaze that is just irresistible!
The ricotta adds moisture to the cookies and gives them this delicious, cake-like texture that you’ll love! Covered with sweet red, white, and green sprinkles, these cookies will be gone in the blink of an eye!
❤️ Why You'll Love This Recipe!
So Delicious! Italian ricotta cookies are one of my favorite types of cookies! They’re moist, and so incredibly flavorful—you can never just have one!
So Easy! These may seem super fancy, but the recipe is so easy to make! The dough is simple and just requires some chilling time in the fridge to make them turn out perfectly!
So Unique! Cheese in a cookie? If you’ve never had these before you may be uncertain, but these cookies are irresistibly good. The ricotta makes them so soft and cake-like!
My Italian ricotta cookies are such a wonderful, special treat for the holidays! They use simple, everyday ingredients that will make it a breeze to whip these up!
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for ingredients, amounts & instructions!*
Italian Ricotta Cookies
- 1 cup Salted Butter – The butter should be softened and at room temperature for this recipe. If using unsalted butter, you’ll want to increase the amount of salt as listed below.
- 1 ¾ cups Sugar – You’ll cream the butter with sugar for this recipe. I like to just use granulated white or unbleached cane sugar here!
- 1 large Lemon – Try to get the largest, juiciest lemon you can find! You’ll want to zest and juice it—save the juice for the icing.
- 1 ¾ cups Ricotta – Use fresh, whole milk ricotta for these cookies! Ricotta is used in these cookies because they make them soft, rich, and perfectly tender.
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract – Vanilla extract perfectly complements the flavors of this cookie! Try to use 100% pure vanilla extract if you can.
- 2 large Eggs – Large eggs are perfect for this recipe! You should try to bring them up to room temperature if you can.
- 2 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder – This is the leavening agent for the cookies! It’ll help them to rise perfectly.
- ½ teaspoon Salt – Increase the amount of salt from ½ teaspoon to ¾ teaspoon if using unsalted butter for this recipe!
- 3 ½ cups All Purpose Flour—Just regular AP flour is all you’ll need to bring these cookies together! This is one recipe where I don't 'scoop and level' my flour (crazy, I know!).
- 2 cups Confectioners’ Sugar – Confectioners’ sugar is the base of any icing! Use unexpired, properly stored sugar to make sure the icing has the best flavor.
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice – Use the fresh lemon juice reserved from the zested lemon – you’ll want about 2 tablespoons.
- 2 tablespoons Milk – This will also help to thin out the icing and make it extra creamy!
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract – Pure vanilla extract will make the icing irresistibly delicious!
🔪 Step-by-Step Instructions
My easy Italian ricotta cookie dough comes together in just 20 minutes! Make sure you chill the dough, so they bake perfectly!
Mix the Cookie Dough
- Mix Dough. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together 1 cup of softened butter (2 sticks), 1 ¾ cups of granulated sugar, and the zest of 1 large lemon until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale in color. This will take about 2 to 5 minutes. Next, add 1 ¾ cups of whole milk ricotta and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and mix until very smooth.
- Finish Dough. One at a time, mix 2 eggs into the dough. Then, add ½ teaspoon of salt and 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder. Gradually add 3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour and mix just until fully combined.
- Chill. Use plastic cling film to cover the mixing bowl and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days at the very most.
Bake the Italian Ricotta Cookies
- Prep Oven. Once the dough is chilled, set the oven to 350°F (175°C)and line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Portion Cookies. Drop the chilled dough in 1-inch balls onto your prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of spacing between cookies. (See Tips & Recipe Notes)
- Bake Cookies. Place the baking sheet onto the middle of your oven’s center rack and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top no longer looks raw and the cookie bottoms are just starting to turn a light golden color. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Mix Icing. Once the cookies are completely cooled, mix the icing ingredients in a small bowl: 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You can alternatively add more liquid or confectioners’ sugar until you’ve reached your desired consistency. The icing should be thick enough to cling onto your spoon with a slow drizzle.
- Glaze Cookies. Dip each of the cookies into the bowl of icing, allowing the icing to run off until the drizzle slows, then turn and set onto the wire cooling rack. Add sprinkles after every few cookies are glazed, if using. Allow the icing to set at room temperature before serving.
These beautiful, soft, and tender Italian Ricotta Cookies are the perfect after dinner treat! Serve them with coffee for a perfect pairing or include them on a beautiful holiday dessert table!
No one will be able to resist how delicious these cookies are! Enjoy!
💭 Angela's Tips & Recipe Notes
- Use whole milk ricotta, not part-skim for this recipe! Part-skim or low-fat ricotta will not provide the necessary richness needed for these cookies! Whole milk is the best for these wonderful cookies!
- If chilling for more than a few hours, transfer the dough into plastic cling film. Wrap up the dough as a ball to keep the dough from drying out.
- Try using a melon baller to portion out the cookies! Not only will this make the cookies more evenly sized, but it will also prevent the warmth of your hands from melting the cookie dough too much before baking. This will ensure they bake up perfectly!
- Use red, green, and white sprinkles or nonpareils for a traditional look! If you desire, you can put sprinkles on the cookies for a festive Christmas decoration that’s also the colors of the Italian flag! Apply these just as the icing is setting so they adhere perfectly.
- Repurpose the parchment paper from baking to glaze the cookies! You can put the parchment paper underneath the wire cooling racks to catch the excess glaze, so you have easy cleanup.
To store these amazing, delicious Italian ricotta cookies, put them into an airtight container with a sheet of parchment paper over each layer. They’ll keep at room temperature for 3 to 4 days, or you can refrigerate them for up to a week!
The sprinkles will likely bleed into the frosting, if you’ve used them—so if you’re making these cookies ahead, hold off on glazing them and until the day you’re ready to eat!
Freezing Italian Ricotta Cookies
If you’d like to freeze these cookies, you should also hold off on the icing until you’re ready to serve!
The easiest way to freeze is to start by freezing the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet for 2 to 3 hours, then transfer them into a freezer storage container! They’ll keep for 2 to 3 months.
🎄 More Christmas Desserts & Cookies
Yes! This is absolutely necessary to make sure the cookies don’t completely flatten out as they bake. The dough should be chilled for at least 2 hours, but I recommend overnight!
I wouldn’t recommend it! These tender cookies will likely crumble during mailing and the glaze will be stained by the sprinkles if you’re using them. I’d recommend mailing a sturdier cookie!
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Italian Ricotta Cookies (Italian Christmas Cookies)
Italian Ricotta Cookies
- 1 cup butter (softened, at room temperature)
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- 1 large lemon (zested and juiced, reserve the juice for icing)
- 1 ¾ cups ricotta (15 ounces of fresh whole milk ricotta)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt (or use ¾ teaspoon with unsalted butter)
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Italian Ricotta Cookies
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and the butter pales in color. Add in the ricotta and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.1 cup butter, 1 ¾ cups sugar, 1 large lemon, 1 ¾ cups ricotta, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Mix the eggs into the dough one at a time, then add the salt and baking powder. Gradually add the flour and mix until fully combined.2 large eggs, 2 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Use plastic cling film to cover the mixing bowl and chill the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days at most.
- Preheat your oven once the dough is chilled. Set the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Drop the chilled dough in 1-inch balls onto your prepared baking sheet leaving 2 inches of spacing between cookies. *These were portioned using a melon baller and dropped directly onto the baking sheet (rather than hand-rolled).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until the top no longer looks raw and the cookie bottoms are just turning a light golden color. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once the cookies have fully cooled, mix the icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Add liquid or more confectioners' sugar as needed to reach your desired consistency. You want the icing to cling to your spoon with a slow drizzle (that way it stays on your cookies!).2 cups confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Dip each of the cookies into the bowl of icing, allow the icing to run off until the drizzle slows, then turn and set onto the wire cooling rack. Add sprinkles after every few cookies are glazed, if using.
- Allow the icing to set at room temperature before serving or storing.
- If you want to store these cookies or freeze them (in more than a single layer) hold off on the icing until you are ready to serve the cookies.
- Flash freeze the dry cookies (without icing) in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer them into a freezer storage container. The cookies should be fully frozen within 2-3 hours.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!