Thin and crisp Classic Italian Pizzelle are a family favorite Christmas cookie. This recipe from the Abruzzo region of Italy are so easy to make. One bite brings back memories of baking with nonna. Lovely as a holiday gift! Perfect for that afternoon coffee break!
There are some cookies that bring back Christmas memories from my very Italian childhood. Pizzelle are that one cookie that was always around during the holidays. No matter what Italian-American Christmas party we went to, there would be a section of pizzelle on the cookie table. My parents would receive containers of pizzelle from various Italian-American friends all throughout the years. It was that one special cookie I adored!
Originally published December 2020 and republished December 2021. We make these beautiful and delicious cookies every year! I thought you’d enjoy them!
I’m sort of a cookbook addict. I have bookshelves literally stuffed with cookbooks. Many of the cookbooks I buy are used. There are a couple of really great thrift stores right by my house. I happened to find a really nice New York Times cookbook. It was from the early 1990’s and was a reprint from the 70’s. Raymond Sokolov was the food editor of the NY Times from 1971-1973.
Mrs. Pinciaro’s Classic Italian pizzelle recipe
Mom was visiting and looking at the book and happened upon a Mrs. Pinciaro’s Pizzelle. She said, “You have to make these pizzelle…this looks like a keeper recipe!”. I had my own pizzelle recipe that is sort of similar to this one that mom gave me some years back. I even shared my gluten-free pizzelle a couple years back. I had no clue who Mrs. Pinciaro was but imagined how special she must have been to be included in a NY Times cookbook.
Through a little research online, I found the original article and read the story of Mrs. Pinciaro. She was in her 70’s in the early 1970’s, so I figured she was born around 1900. She would be over a 100 years old today! I even tried to find her daughter, but could not find any info on her. Mrs. Pinciaro was quite a baker. It turns out the article that went with this recipe featured an aunt of a Miss Theresa Laudo.
The article explains that Miss Laudo was a language teacher in Brooklyn and she traveled to Abruzzo, Italy to stay with her aunt and learn some of her recipes. She traded authentic Abruzzi recipes for an apple pie recipe.
This actual pizzelle recipe came from the mother of a former student of Miss Theresa Laudo. The author of the article, Raymond Sokolov wrote, “Mrs. Constantino Pinciaro was born in Abbruzzi and uses a heavy handwrought iron with long handles.”
Preserving Italian family recipes
It was so important for Miss Theresa Laudo to preserve the recipes from the Italian heritage. She grew up in Brooklyn and her family’s Italian grocery store was attached to the apartment. At the time when this article was written (the early 1970’s), she was a teacher at Samuel J. Preston School in Harrison, NY and 90% of the student body was Italian.
The article was all about Miss Laudo’s aunt in Abruzzi’s recipes and then went on to share a Mrs. Pinciaro’s pizzelle recipe. I’m not sure what happened to Mrs Pinciaro’s daughter and if she is carrying on the collection of traditional recipes from her mother. They may even all be long gone. At least some of them were preserved online by Raymond Sokolov and the NY Times. This is one of the recipes that were dear to her.
You do need a pizzelle iron to make these, but they are fairly inexpensive and available almost anywhere you can buy kitchen goods. My grandma’s came from a local Italian grocery store, and this is the one I use now.
You must have a pizzelle iron to make the cookies. The batter does come together very easily. It is a classic and reliable recipe. I have made it 3 times in the last two weeks. They stay VERY crispy.
Just spray your iron with baking spray and carefully portion out the right amount of batter onto the hot iron. My iron clamps it down to shut it and it really takes about one minute per batch. You can experiment and see how much dough you want. Depending how much you use will create thicker or thinner cookies. It always happens that by the time I’m on the last portions, the cookies look exactly how I want them to look.
Let’s talk about pizzelle ingredients:
Here are the ingredients you need to make classic Italian pizzelle:
- all‐purpose flour
- baking powder
- unsalted butter (you could use a butter alternative like Earth Balance to go dairy-free)
- grated peel of one lemon
- fresh orange juice
- milk (I used almond milk to go dairy-free, but feel free to use whatever milk you like)
- anise extract, optional (or any liqueur like Strega)
- vanilla extract, optional
You may come across recipes that use different ingredients that create a totally unique pizzelle.
Depending on the recipe source, it could vary slightly. The pizzelle from my childhood had a very strong anise flavor. And also I remember them tasting like a crispy butter cookie.
- Butter: There are recipes (like the one I’m sharing) that use butter. You could use dairy-free margarine (like Earth Balance butter sticks) and some old recipes even use vegetable oil. I have seen some that even use olive oil.
- Alcohol: You may find some pizzelle recipes with a little booze. This recipe suggests using Strega. Some even use a touch of Sambuca. I find when making for the kids, they prefer the pizzelle without a strong boozy flavor. BUT if making as a gift for adults, you could add a touch of even brandy. This recipe has no booze in it (just some orange juice and a bit of milk).
- Anise: This recipe does have anise extract, which has a pretty strong flavor. You could play around with the portion, depending on how strong you like the flavor. Almond extract and vanilla extract do also work together very well in this recipe. Some nonna’s like to add some anise seeds. My kids aren’t too crazy about anise flavor, so I tend to make it more subtle.
- Lemon zest: This recipe uses lemon zest. You could also use orange zest. If you don’t have any citrus on hand, you could omit it from recipe.
- Cocoa: Some people do like a chocolate flavored pizzelle. If you are replacing some flour for cocoa powder, you’ll have to adjust the sugar too a little bit.
How do you make classic Italian pizzelle?
The first step is to gather all your pizzelle ingredients.
Nexst step, warm up a pizzelle iron.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until frothy and beginning to thicken (about 2-3 minutes).
On low speed, add the extracts and melted butter to egg mixture in a steady stream and mix for 30 seconds.
Slowly add the dry mixture to wet and blend just until combined. Your batter will resemble a soft and sticky dough.
Spray pizzelle iron lightly with baking spray.
Drop 1 tablespoon of batter on hot pizzelle press.
Close press and cook for about 1 minute or until light indicated cookies are done (cookies should be slightly golden).
Use a fork to lift pizzelle off the press and transfer to a cookie rack or plate to cool down (keep in mind that they should lay flat. While they are hot, they will mold into another shape if they’re not completely flat).
Spray iron again and repeat process until you finish all the batter.
Dust with confectioner’s sugar and ENJOY! My husband loves them with a drizzle of honey. I know also a spread of a chocolate-hazelnut cream is also a great idea!
Some tips for making the best classic Italian pizzelle
Even though you make pizzelle with an iron, there are some tricks to make them turn out really great!
- Batter sticking: Use baking spray if you have a stainless steel iron. I usually spray do a quick spritz of the spray before adding each batch of batter. I do not want to end up with a sticky stuck batter mess so that’s how I prevent any chances of it happening.
- Batter dripping out the side: You may find in the beginning you will add too much batter. When you squeeze the top part of iron on the bottom part, you’ll have batter oozing out the sides. And that is super messy to clean and the iron is very hot, so you have to carefully clean it. Make sure you spoon the batter right in the center and with the back of my spoon and even my clean finger, I shape it to cover all around and slightly above the center. ONE tablespoon of batter should be enough to make the cookie. IF it seems too small, add slightly more than 1 tablespoon. Depending on the design of your pizzelle iron, you may need a little more batter. It could take some trial and error with the first batches. The first ones maybe won’t look as perfect as you imagine, but they will still be delicious!
- Soggy Pizzelle: The pizzelle should be made do need the right environment to crisp up. If it happens to be a very humid day, once you make the pizzelle, lay them flat and store them in a very dry part of the house (a cold and damp basement would not be the right place to store them while they’re drying and crisping up).
- Drying: Allow them to stay on the baking rack or even laying flat on a baking sheet, side by side (NOT stacked) until they cool and crisp up.
- Batter amount: Also, use the correct amount of batter. Using too much batter will end up with thick pizzelle that will not crisp up. IF you like thicker, pizzelle, than make them with more batter.
Do I need a pizzelle iron to make pizzelles?
Yes! There is really no way to make pizzelle unless you have the iron. I have seen online affordable irons that make just one at a time. Using a pizzelle iron is the only way to make these cookies.
Can I make gluten-free pizzelle cookies?
Yes! I did share gluten-free pizzelle here a while back. I find if you use your favorite 1-1 gluten-free flour, and I do love Bob’s Red Mill or King Aruthur’s. I find they both result with very crispy and delicious GF pizzelle. I am not experienced enough with gluten-free flours to create my own blend, so their blends are perfect!
How do you make crispy pizzelle cookies?
Here are the tips you should follow to get the crispiest pizzelle:
- once you remove the pizzelle from the pizzelle maker, place them flat on a cooling rack or serving plate lined with parchment paper;
- very important to place them side by side. IF you stack them up while they’re hot, they will not crisp up. The steam will keep them soft;
- the longer they stay on the plate or rack to cool, the crispier they will get. I usually leave them there a few hours to dry.
The pizzelle are thin and crisp and very delicate. When you remove the pizzelle from the iron plate you have only a few moments to roll into a different shape before they dry. Or you lay them flat like we did and dust with confectioner’s sugar to enjoy them as simple and delicious as they are!
What can I make with pizzelle cookies?
The beauty of these cookies is that while they’re hot, you can shape them!
- Roll them into a cannoli shape and fill with your ricotta filling.
- Perfect as a cone to hold gelato.
- Form them into a bowl and they’re delicious topped with custard, jam or Nutella!!How to store pizzelle and keep them crispy?
How to store classic Italian pizzelle and keep them crispy?
- place in cookie or coffee tins;
- wrap in aluminum foil;
- place in paper bags.
- could also store in zipped lock bags.
The pizzelle can be stored in air tight container for up to 2-3 weeks (at least in Florida…maybe longer in a colder kitchen). I tend to avoid storing them in a plastic container.
How to freeze pizzelle cookies?
When the pizzelle have cooled completely, you could place them in a zipped lock freezer bag (or any airtight storage container). They will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. When ready to enjoy, thaw them out on the counter.
Some other Italian cookie recipes:
- Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Cuccidati-Sicilian Fig Cookies
- Italian Lemon Knot Cookies
- Sicilian S Cookies
Classic Italian Pizzelle
- 3 cups all‐purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ pound butter softened at room temperature (you could use a butter alternative like Earth Balance to go dairy-free)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- grated peel of one lemon
- 3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup milk I used almond milk to go dairy-free, but feel free to use whatever milk you like
- 2 teaspoons anise extract optional (or any liqueur like Strega)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract optional
- Warm up a pizzelle iron.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until frothy and beginning to thicken (about 2-3 minutes).
- On low speed, add the extracts and melted butter to egg mixture in a steady stream and mix for 30 seconds.
- Slowly add the dry mixture to wet and blend just until combined. Your batter will resemble a soft and sticky dough.
- Spray pizzelle iron lightly with baking spray.
- Drop 1 tablespoon of batter on hot pizzelle press.
- Close press and cook for about 1 minute or until light indicated cookies are done (cookies should be slightly golden).
- Use a fork to lift pizzelle off the press and transfer to a cookie rack or plate to cool down (keep in mind that they should lay flat. While they are hot, they will mold into another shape if they’re not completely flat).
- Spray iron again and repeat process until you finish all the batter.
- Dust with confectioner’s sugar and ENJOY!