Mostaccioli - Italian Christmas spice cookies are made with ground almonds and scented with orange zest, and the warm spices clove and cinnamon. Festive with icing and sprinkles, this cookie is the perfect addition to your Christmas baking tray.
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’sCookies Unlimited
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.
About Italian Mostaccioli cookies
The origins of mostaccioli cookies dates back to 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ! If that's true then the mostaccioli recipe. It happens to be one of the oldest cookie recipes to exist. As with many ancient recipes, it has evolved throughout the centuries. Even food historians can't agree on where it was first made and even the original name.
Some food historians say the name is Greek in origin and some say it was the Arabs that first made the cookies. But there is written evidence from 1st century AD of the cookie by the Roman senator and orator. The "cake" or cookie Cato described did include rye flour, cumin, cheese, anise and eggs.
The recipe that we are more familiar with today most likely began being used in about 1653 . There is a legend that St. Domenico (patron saint of the Kingdom of Naples), gave mostaccioli cookies to Sariano, Calabria right after a tragic earthquake hit the region. Since then, on the Feast day of St. Domenico, August 16th, you will find mostaccioli in Sariano, Calabria to honor this saint.
So for over three centuries, Southern Italians have been smitten by these spice cookies. You will see them in North America most likely in a diamond shape. And most American recipes will probably include chocolate. In Italy there is more of a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the cookies are made into intricate designs, even shaped like snakes, birds, horses, dolls and even baskets.
The cookie name will also change from region to region in Italy. In Calabria they are called "mustazzola" and "mastazzolu"; in Sardinia, "mustazzolus."
As they are so beautiful, they most likely would be displayed instead of eaten (in some areas of Italy). There was once even a display at the National Museum of Applied Arts in Rome with a collection of 36 ancient forms.
As you search for mostaccioli, you'll come across hundreds of cookie recipes and even some pata recipes.
Some mostaccioli are baked without any leavening agent, which results in a much harder cookie, These are definitely on the softer side as the recipe calls for baking powder.
As I mentioned before, you may even find some chocolate mostaccioli. Some recipes include honey instead of sugar (this recipe uses sugar). The original cookies should include mosto cotto, but some these days do not include any alcohol at all.
What ingredients are needed for Mostaccioli-Italian Christmas Spice Cookies
For the cookies:
- all-purpose flour
- cocoa powder
- granulated sugar
- finely ground almonds (I used unblanched slivers)
- ground cinnamon
- zest 1 large orange
- ground cloves
- baking powder
- unsalted butter
- sweet wine or vino cotto (You could also use water or dry red wine. I used 1/3 cup Martini Rossi Vermouth.)
For the icing:
- confectioners’ sugar
- orange juice
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!
Recipe source: Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri (C) 2000
Some other cookie recipes to try this holiday:
- Chocolate Crackle Cookies
- Cuccidati-Sicilian Fig Cookies
- Italian Lemon Knot Cookies
- Sicilian S Cookies
Mostaccioli-Italian Christmas Spice Cookies
- 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.
- One 1 pound box confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 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. Cut 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.
- 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.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.
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:)
♥The Sweet Life♥ (Alessandra) says
Ciao! Part of my Italian heritage is from Sicily as well. Great recipe!
RJ Flamingo says
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!
Jo Ann says
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.
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!
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!
Oooh, these look gorgeous! I've never tasted anything like these cookies before, but I really want to give them a try! Yum!!
Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen says
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!
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!
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!
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.
So delicious and festive looking!! Wish I was coming to your Christmas!
Evan @swEEts says
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 🙂
Chef Dennis says
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!
I've never had these before...what a wonderful recipe.
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!
those are gorgeous lora- too cute!
Wow, forgot about those cookies, maybe Napoleon Bakery will have some for me! Great post
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:)
Rosa's Yummy Yums says
Those would be cookies for me! They look delicious.
Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels says
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!
Diana's Cocina says
These cookies look so delicious! What a perfect treat!
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. 🙂
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)
A SPICY PERSPECTIVE says
We just had our big cookie day! What sugary fun!
These are lovely little bites--I'm saving this for sure!
Table Talk says
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.
Liana @ femme fraiche says
Those look delicious!! And what an interesting story to go along with it
i love this cookie and the story is really sweet too.. thanks for sharing it..hope you have a nice day.
Magic of Spice says
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 🙂
vans shoes says
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.
Sport Bike Parts says
These Italian cookies looks so yummy and delicious. It is best Christmas food. You shared method of making this cookies is really commendable.