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Travel to Italy
Travel to Italy

Italian Recipes

Italian Recipes
Italian Recipes

Dessert Recipes

Dessert Recipes
Dessert Recipes

Mostaccioli–Italian Christmas Spice Cookies

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Mostaccioli brings back many Christmas memories to me. It is a cookie that I ate often as a child. My father is from Sicily. I grew up eating plenty of cannoli and mostaccioli.  I was glancing through Nick Malgieri’s Cookies Unlimited book last night and came across this recipe. My eyes lit up. I could taste the pungent cloves and cinnamon. Memories of the sticky glaze dusted with sprinkles came rushing back to me.

I had to make these cookies for Christmas. Today was our big “Cookie Making Day” with our neighbors and their kids. We made a gazilion sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms. The chocolate crinkle dough was still chilling in the fridge while I made these Italian treats.

There are mostaccioli cookies and mostaccioli pasta (which look like penne). Nick Malgieri says that mostaccioli cookies are a traditional Apulian Christmas cookie. As I was googling different recipes, I came across many shapes and different icings (chocolate and white). Some recipes called for honey and molasses. Some bakers shape them like diamonds, others make the round. I chose to make Mr. Malgieri’s exact recipe and they are the way I remember eating them in Sicily. I can’t wait for my daddy to try these on Christmas day!

Today was our big “Cookie Making Day” with our neighbor’s and their kids. We made a gazilion sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms. The chocolate crinkle dough was still chilling in the fridge while I made these Italian treats.

Recipe Note: The dough was very easy to make. I could not fit the entire recipe in my food processor. I ground the almonds and sugar. I added some of the flour and pulsed the butter into it. I then transferred it into a huge bowl and mixed the rest of the ingredients by hand with a pastry cutter. The dough could sit overnight to absorb the wine flavor. I had 7 kids waiting for some cookie samples. I didn’t wait and the cookies turned out AMAZING! Next time I will let it wait in fridge for the next day and taste the difference.

This is what I found when researching the origins of Mostaccioli:
”Apparently, the original recipe for mostaccioli cookies dates back to 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ! If that's true then the mostaccioli recipe is one of the oldest cookie recipes on record. Of course, food historians not only disagree as to when the cookies were first made and where they were first made, but they also question the origin of the word itself. Some food historians believe the word, mostaccioli, comes from the latin "mustaceum" meaning a cake cooked with grape must, others believe the word is Greek in origin. Some food historians argue that regardless of the origin of the word, it was the Arabs who introduced the cookie to the world. In any case, the Roman senator and orator, Cato, described the mostaccioli cookie (or cake) in a text written sometime in the 1st century A.D. However, the "cake" he described included rye flour, cumin, cheese, anise and eggs. Obviously, the recipe changed over time. There is a general consensus among food historians that the recipe now in use started to be popular around 1653. According to one legend, St. Domenico, the patron saint of the Kingdom of Naples, gave out mostaccioli cookies to the local populace in Sariano, Calabria after a terrible earthquake hit the region and the people there were in dire need. Since that time on the Feast Day of St. Domenico, August 16th, people in Sariano, Calabria celebrate by making mostaccioli cookies. Apparently, mostaccioli cookies are also auctioned off on that day and the money is given to charity. Whenever and wherever the cookies were first made is a moot point, but everyone seems to agree that Italians, especially Southern Italians, fell in love with these highly-spiced cookies and have been making them for over three centuries. In North America mostaccioli are generally presented as diamond-shaped; some recipes include chocolate and others do not. However, in Italy, the cookies come in a variety of shapes and flavors. Cookies can come in shapes of baskets, birds, snakes, horses, dolls and figures of women (For photos and more information on mostaccioli's fascinating history see www.infocrotone.com). Apparently, some mostaccioli are so beautifully decorated in Italy that people would rather display them, then eat them up. In fact, a collection of 36 ancient forms used to make these cookies were once put on display at the National Museum of Applied Arts in Rome. There are hundreds and hundreds of recipes for mostaccioli cookies on the internet (P.S. Not all the mostaccioli entries on the internet refer to cookies, some are pastas). In any case, not only do the recipes call for different flavorings, they also use different types of doughs. Some doughs call for yeast, others for baking powder and/or baking ammonia. Some doughs are hard, others are soft. Some recipes include chocolate, others do not. Most recipes include honey and sugar. Even though the original recipes included mosto cotto, very few do nowadays (Still, it's an interesting variation). Also, the names of the cookies differ from region to region. In Calabria they are called "mustazzola" and "mastazzolu"; in Sardinia, "mustazzolus." Prior to World War II mostaccioli cookies were generally only served at weddings, though in some areas in the South, they were also served for the Christmas festivities. Nowadays, of course, they are sold in shops, and so are available throughout the year, and anytime is a good time to feast on them.”
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Mostaccioli-Italian Christmas Spice Cookies
Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri (C) 2000


4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup finely ground almonds (I used unblanched slivers)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest 1 large orange
1 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking powder
1 stick cold unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sweet wine or vino cotto (You could also use water or dry red wine. I used 1/3 cup Martini Rossi Vermouth.)

Icing
One 1 pound box confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup orange joice

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the almonds and sugar until the almonds are finely ground. Add the orange zest, flour cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves and pulse several times to mix. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and add to the work bowl. Pulse until the butter is mixed in (about 20-25 times).

Ad the eggs and wine; pulse until the dough is evenly moistened, tough it probably will form one ball. Allow to stand for 1 minute to absorb the liquid, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. *I could not fit all the ingredients in my food processor. See recipe note above.

Scrape the dough onto an oiled work surface and roll into a log, 12 inches long. Cute the log into six pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch cylinder, flatten slightly the palm of your hand, then cut each 12-inch cylinder diagonally into ten or eleven pieces and place the pieces on pans about 1 inch apart. Place the pans in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 300 degrees. Bake the cookies about 10-14 minutes, or until firm and light golden.
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Icing:
Whisk the confectioners’ sugar with the water and orange juice. Add the water a little at a time. If it is too thick, add a little more water a tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the cookies to a rack and drizzle on the icing. I did two coats of the icing drizzle. The original recipe says to dunk the cookies in the icing. I wanted to see a little bit of the cookie color. Add some sprinkles.

ENJOY!

Allow the cookies to cool completely; they will remain chewy on the inside.

I doubt you will have any leftover…but if you do, store in an airtight container.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad! I hope you enjoy your holiday with your loved ones! Thank you for stopping by today!

32 comments

  1. These look so good, Lora! Recipes that conjure up memories are the best! Sounds like you had a very productive baking day; good for you:)

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  2. Ciao! Part of my Italian heritage is from Sicily as well. Great recipe!

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  3. Oh, these sound wonderful! And thank you for the historical background, too. I always say, If you want to learn about a culture, eat their food!

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  4. I just got home from my Sicilian-American mother's house where I was picking up my order of biscotti and pumping her for her cannoli recipe. She also used to make these cookies, the icing looks identical. So many memories, thanks for posting I am definitely archiving this to return to when I have more time.

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  5. These sound wonderful! I have no Italian ancestors, but a dear friend's family is Sicilian- I may surprise her with these. :) I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!

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  6. I love all the beautiful Italian treats you share with me. I'm tempted to try each and every recipe. I adore rainbow sprinkles...they always make me smile. Thank you so much for sharing with me, my dear. And thank you again for such a beautiful blog post. It means the world to me!

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  7. Oooh, these look gorgeous! I've never tasted anything like these cookies before, but I really want to give them a try! Yum!!

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  8. Sounds like you had a busy but fun day. I don't think I've ever tried a mostaccioli cookie before, but they look and sound great. Thanks for including the historical background on them. Wishing you a happy holiday as well!

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  9. I love Italian cookies. They seem so simple but are so warming and delicious! This is one I don't know and I must try it. What I love about Italian specialties is that every region and city has their own version with a slight variation which makes it that much different. And I love your idea of a kids' cookie making day!

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  10. Lora,seriously how do you find time to make all these great stuff and how much do all of you weigh? :)
    Like the adult version of cookies with a little bit booze in them!

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  11. I don't think I've ever had these but do know that I love spiced cookies. Those sound like they would be right up my alley! The history of these cookies was quite interesting too.

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  12. So delicious and festive looking!! Wish I was coming to your Christmas!

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  13. I've never heard of these cookies, but I would absolutely love to try some! I love anything with holiday spice.. especially sweets! I'm sure your father will love them! I hope you have a lovely holiday Lora with plenty of deliciousness :)

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  14. Ciao Lora
    Be still my heart!!! what a perfect cookie, I think I have tears in my eyes.....sigh....I remember seeing them when I was in Italy over Christmas so many years ago....That was the only time....
    thank you for such an incredible post and for stirring those memories!
    Merry Christmas
    Dennis

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  15. I've never had these before...what a wonderful recipe.

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  16. This is a cookie that was not made in my Italian family - but it's never too late to start a tradition! I love how you left them so rustic looking. I'm sure they would be a hit in my family. Merry Christmas!

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  17. those are gorgeous lora- too cute!

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  18. Wow, forgot about those cookies, maybe Napoleon Bakery will have some for me! Great post

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  19. I'm loving all these history cookie lessons you're offering up these days! Although, you had me all distracted with the visual of 100's of cookies laying around the kitchen. These look great and of course, the sprinkles are the perfect touch:)

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  20. Those would be cookies for me! They look delicious.

    Happy holidays,

    Rosa

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  21. Oh those cookies look lovely and delicious. I love learning about all these different Italian sweets from you. I must make these, they're just calling my name with those cute sprinkles on top!

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  22. These cookies look so delicious! What a perfect treat!

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  23. These look delish! As a Northern Italian, we had our own version growing up...but these are prompting me to get in the kitchen ASAP. :)

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  24. This is one version I'll have to sharae with my step-Dad (from Bari)who usually makes these cookies over the holidays. He makes his own vino cotto, hence the flavour is intense and very flavourful.

    Lora...I enjoyed the part about the origins of this cookie...something else, I'll have to share with him.

    Glad you're enjoying such great holiday fun ;o)

    Merry Christmas,
    Claudia

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  25. We just had our big cookie day! What sugary fun!

    These are lovely little bites--I'm saving this for sure!

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  26. My Italian grandmother used to make these every year and bring them to our house on Christmas eve packed neatly in a big box, along with a few other traditional cookies. She would bake them fresh that day, and we would polish them off before you could blink.
    Traditional recipes like this are wonderful and full of great memories.
    Merry Christmas!

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  27. Those look delicious!! And what an interesting story to go along with it

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  28. i love this cookie and the story is really sweet too.. thanks for sharing it..hope you have a nice day.

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  29. What a great post, love the background...
    I have never tried these but they look delicious!
    I am terrible with cookies, but it sounds so much fun to bake cookies at the Holidays...
    Hope you had a most lovely Christmas :)

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  30. Italian food always best i love the Italian food.You share really nice food flavor over here.I likes this blog.It is great that you post this type of dishes.

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  31. Cake is very important for the any occasion.Every one likes to eat cake.You share wonderful cake recipe,my mouth still melting to see this.

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  32. These Italian cookies looks so yummy and delicious. It is best Christmas food. You shared method of making this cookies is really commendable.

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