Italian Christmas Cakes and Cookies

Pignoli Cookies

Kristina Vanni

Almost every town in Italy has its own special cake, cookie, or pie for Christmas, and any of them are an excellent choice for a holiday treat. These recipes are some of the best-known Italian holiday desserts, from panettone to pignoli.

  • 01 of 13

    Panettone

    Panettone (Italian Christmas Cake)

    Anthony Masterson / Getty

    Panettone is the traditional Christmas cake of Milan and has become the most common Christmas cake in Italy. The lightly sweet, dried fruit-studded dessert keeps well much like fruit cake, making it a popular gift. When you make your own panettone, you can flavor it however you like with your choice of fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, and more.

  • 02 of 13

    Homemade Torrone (Italian Nougat)

    Homemade torrone recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Torrone, the traditional Italian nougat, is frequently eaten and gifted at Christmas. The chewy, white candy resembles snow and is studded with toasted almonds. Since torrone is candy, you'll need a candy thermometer to watch the temperature very carefully for the right texture.

  • 03 of 13

    Struffoli

    Struffoli on a plate

    Linda Lewis / Getty Images

    Struffoli are fried dough balls dipped in a honey syrup, shaped into a pyramid or wreath, and sprinkled with diavolilli, a type of candy. The rich dessert is a must at the end of a traditional Neapolitan holiday meal. The dessert has ancient origins but is a more recent addition to Christmas tradition.

  • 04 of 13

    Pizzelle

    Pizzelle

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

    The Abruzzo region is the original home of pizzelle cookies, though they've been made all over Italy for centuries. The stunning waffle cookies are flavored with anise, vanilla, almond, citrus zest, or chocolate. While the cookies are still warm from the iron, you can shape them into bowls or rolls to be filled with custard, fruit, and ice cream, too.

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  • 05 of 13

    Italian-Style Candied Chestnuts

    Italian-Style Candied Chestnuts

    Norman Hollands / Getty Images 

    Candied chestnuts are a popular holiday treat all over Italy and have been since the 15th and 16th centuries. Making them at home takes some planning ahead since they need to soak in the syrup repeatedly. The nuts are frequently given as gifts and set out on the table at Christmastime as a sweet treat.

  • 06 of 13

    Italian Cheesecake

    Italian Cheesecake

     The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    Cheesecake can be served all year long, but it's special enough for the holidays. The Italian version differs from the American version in a few ways: It's made with ricotta instead of cream cheese, it's crustless, and it has a citrusy flavor. It's actually easier to make and has a flavor similar to the filling of a cannoli.

  • 07 of 13

    Traditional Italian Biscotti

    Traditional Italian Biscotti

    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm 

    Biscotti di Prato is from, you guessed it, Prato in Tuscany. The cookies are baked twice to give them their signature crunch and extend their shelf life. When stored in an airtight jar or box, biscotti will keep for several weeks. The classic cookies are also called cantucci in Italy and are delicious dipped into coffee, espresso, or sweet wine.

  • 08 of 13

    Florentines

    Florentines

     Kristina Vanni

    Thin and crisp Florentines are an Italian treat, especially when served with espresso. Flavored with candied fruit like orange peel, almonds, and dark chocolate, they're lovely during the holidays or any time of year.

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  • 09 of 13

    Pandoro

    Pandoro classic Christmas cake verona recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Pandoro is Verona's answer to panettone, a rich but airy cake that's sprinkled with an abundance of powdered sugar. Like panettone, the eggy cake is yeast-risen, but unlike panettone, it never contains candied fruit. Sometimes slices of it are served with a rich chocolate sauce for dipping.

  • 10 of 13

    Pignoli Cookies

    Pignoli Cookies

     The Spruce / Kristina Vanni 

    Pignoli is Italian for pine nut, the star ingredient in these Sicilian cookies. Made with almond paste and egg whites, they are light and nutty and grain free. The pretty dessert is often served during the holidays with a dusting of powdered sugar on top.

  • 11 of 13

    Italian Ricotta Cassata Cake

    Italian Ricotta Cassata Cake

     The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    The often beautifully decorated cassata cake hails from Sicily and is worthy of any special occasion. Made of layers of sponge cake, ricotta filling, candied fruit, and chocolate, what's not to love? The cake is soaked in a little rum or Marsala wine to keep it moist and little boozy.

  • 12 of 13

    Gingerbread Biscotti

    gingerbread biscotti

    The Spruce Eats / Pete Scherer 

    For a seasonal, spiced take on the classic Italian cookie, try gingerbread biscotti. Notes of ginger, cinnamon, and molasses pair perfectly with a hot cup of coffee, tea, or espresso.

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  • 13 of 13

    Gluten-Free Amaretti Cookies

    Gluten-Free Amaretti Cookies

     Lisovskaya Natalia / Getty Images

    Crunchy and sweet, naturally gluten-free amaretti cookies are a delicious addition to your Christmas dessert table. They're a nice option for gluten-free guests and are especially good served with a hot beverage.