Italian Ricotta Cookies Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Jessica Hulett

Adapted by Melissa Clark

Italian Ricotta Cookies Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour, plus 2 hours’ chilling
Read community notes

Jessica Hulett’s tender, cakey ricotta cookies taste like the white part of the best black and white cookie you've ever had. The recipe comes from Ms. Hulett’s grandmother Dorie, who used to flavor the cookies with anise, if she used flavoring at all. Adding lemon zest gives the cookies a fragrant brightness. We approve. —Melissa Clark

Featured in: Thanks for the Holiday Desserts

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Yield:About 6 dozen

  • 2sticks (1 cup) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 425grams sugar (about 2 cups)
  • cups ricotta cheese (15 ounces), preferably fresh
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 4teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2large eggs
  • 480grams all-purpose flour (about 4 cups)
  • 10grams baking soda (2 teaspoons)
  • 4grams fine sea salt (about ¾ teaspoon)
  • 450grams confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
  • 2tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼cup to ½ cup milk, as needed

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (72 servings)

110 calories; 4 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 1 gram monounsaturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 12 grams sugars; 2 grams protein; 67 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Italian Ricotta Cookies Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Using an electric mixer, cream 2 sticks butter with sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest and 2½ teaspoons vanilla and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula, then beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a week.

  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees and line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake until pale golden on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

  3. Step


    Melt remaining tablespoon butter. Whisk confectioners’ sugar to break up any large lumps, then whisk in melted butter, lemon juice, remaining 1½ teaspoons vanilla and enough milk to make a spreadable icing. Spread icing on cooled cookies, then let set for at least 20 minutes before serving.



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Cooking Notes


I accidentally added the full 4 tsp of vanilla to the dough. It worked out fine as my Italian friends told me this was the best version of this cookie they have ever had.


This is a terrific recipe and my cookies were a huge hit. They turned out beautifully. After reading the comments, I used all 4 tsp vanilla extract in my dough, and an additional 1 1/2 tsp in the icing. One tip - make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to bake these. Each tray will only be in the oven about 15 minutes, but chances are you will have 4+ trays, and you want to leave a bit of time for your oven to come back up to temp every time you open it. Will def make again!


These were too big for my taste and spread out too much, so I used a couple of teaspoons per cookie, put the cookies on the sheets in the freezer for a few minutes before baking, and kept the bowl of dough in the freezer as well. Finally, I turned the heat down to 325 degrees--all to much better effect! Took about 13 minutes to bake. Can't wait to frost them.


Delicious, light cookies that aren't too sweet and have a depth of flavor. I made a few substitutions for my taste: used 3 tsps of almond extract and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract (I love almonds). I also cut the sugar by 1/3 cup and instead of icing the cookies (I didn't have the time nor patience), I rolled them in a mixture of white and red sugar before baking to make them more festive.


The millennial thing is tiring. I love anise and I'm a "millennial." Maybe your coworker's just a jerk who doesn't like liquorice.


This is my second year making these. I chill the dough overnight, roll it in my hands in small balls, then chill again before baking. I bake 11-12 minutes, on parchment, rotating after 6. I froze some without glaze. Had 3+ dozen to glaze, used 3/4 cup conf. sugar, 3+ T. lemon juice, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 generous tsp melted butter and splash of 1/2 & 1/2. That made just the right amount for 3 dozen cookies. The extra lemon in the glaze really makes these bright. Love the tender, cakey texture!


I don't think it's being a millennial. That's just bad manners to tell someone that you had to spit out a treat that she made and gave to you. No food is going to please everyone, but it would be much more polite for her to tell you that she liked the fudge but the anise flavored cookies were not to her taste, without mentioning the spitting.


Have made these for years but sometimes substitue almond extract for the vanilla and omit the lemon zest. Also substitute almond extract to the glaze. Freeze well!


Can these cookies be frozen after they’re baked? I have a cookie share and need to bake ahead of time.

Chef Agostino

I experimented and here is what I learned. To keep the cookie dough from sticking to your hands, wet your hands and then roll the dough into balls. I got about 12 dough balls before I had to rinse and wet them again. Be sure to keep the dough cold between baking otherwise the dough will spread. Bake at 350 degrees rotating the tray at 7 1/2 minutes. Be sure the cookies begin to turn lightly golden on the edge before removing from the oven. The cookies are fantastic!


Not very sweet even with added sugar and sprinkles. Some recommended changes:

- flatten the rounds before backing just a bit so they bake all the way through
- add extra zest (be careful not to get the white, of course, that makes it bitter) and a touch extra vanilla
- use extra lemon in the icing, and be sure to add sprinkles to make sure it's sweet enough

T de S

How many days will the cookies stay well after baking? I’d like to make these ahead of time for an event.

Flight Attendant

Wow! Everyone, young and old, loved these cookies! They are like little moist frosted cakes. I definitely recommend reading all of the helpful notes - especially suggestions in regard to adding more lemon, vanilla, reduced to 12 minute bake time, and chilling balls before baking. Enjoy!!


I had these frozen (raw cookie dough balls) and found them in my freezer. I had lemon sugar that I made using a Buddha’s hand, so instead of frosting I rolled the balls in lemon sugar before baking. In my opinion it made hem better than with frosting.


Double the Lemon Zest and the lemon juice. For Glaze, use 3 cups of confectioner's sugar instead of 4. Dribble a little milk after using the butter, lemon juice and vanilla as per recipe.


This has become one of my absolute must holiday cookies. Everyone loves them. After some testing, I changed the recipe by adding anise extract (1 1/3 tsp). This year I discovered that I can use a cookie scoop for the sticky batter. I dip the frosting in sparkling sugar, available online at King Arthur, before it sets. Snowy-looking and crunchy.


These are fantastic and easy to make. Like little cakes in texture. The only thing I would do differently next time is skip the vanilla in the glaze and use it all in the dough instead. I’d increase the lemon juice in the glaze.

my note

Sift powdered sugar so it doesn’t have lumps.


Great cookie! Big hit! Made half a recipe. After reading comments about cookies spreading in oven, replaced the baking soda with baking powder. Result was fantastic. Also thinned glaze slightly with a little additional lemon juice so glaze could be spooned over cookies and sprinkles sprinkled on top. So much less fussy than individually frosting each cookie. Glaze set up nicely. I will make these again (and again and again)!

Lauren C

As cookies, not good. Used the 4 tsp of vanilla - they still had no flavor. Bake time too long - came out dry and flat. Salvaged them with an almond glaze and sliced almonds. After 4 dozen, still a lot of dough left. So baked them in muffin tins: mini, medium, and standard (2 tsp., 1 Tbsp, 1.5 Tbsp of dough; about 8 minutes, 9, and 10 minutes, respectively}. NOW they are soft little cakes. Finished with lime glaze and finely shredded coconut. Next time, citrus extract, zest & glaze. Or almond.


meh. too much work. better to make ricotta cake

Kevin C.

I've made these the past two years. They are deceptively 'light' and cake-like, and quite yummy! I made a few changes: halved the recipe and made one-bite, pinball-sized dollops, subbed almond extract for 1/3 of the vanilla in the dough, folded in 1/4 cup of currants plumped with orange liqueur, and added anise extract to the icing. The dough is sticky and more easily handled well chilled with wetted hands. I bake them for 9 minutes. They've become a regular in our Xmas cookie lineup!


I make these every year (sometimes multiple batches) and they are amazingly soft and cakey. Instead of lemon juice, I use 1/4 tsp of Fiori di Sicilia and you can definitely taste it, it's kind of like an orange creamsicle. Agree with another comment that the flour needs to be well incorporated, otherwise you'll get several oily, flat ones towards the end. I get the best results when the dough is chilled overnight and not handled too much when forming the dough balls (use a cookie scoop)


Too flat. What a waste of time and money. Not to mention ricotta cheese. These need baking POWDER not soda.I added lemon extract to the dough and gave it a nice lemon flavor. But the cookies have no shape.


I literally just made these and the ARE PERFECT ! Absolutely perfect and moist !


Cookies even with extra vanilla are just ok. The glaze is what makes it, but I took a lemon glaze from a different recipe on New York Times that contains cardamom, and I found that added a much needed interest to otherwise bland cake like cookie.

Keeper - YES!

Made in MT with homemade ricotta, with no adjustments for elevation but did use 1 t baking powder and 1 t baking soda per 1 suggestion. Spread too much, but taste good.Adjust for elevation and use dryer ricotta.


How long will these cookies keep once baked?


Not enough lemon flavor in cookie. Did not want to glaze so rolled in lemon sugar. Next time add lemon juice to cookies too? Made several dozen.

Cathi B

I would love to know how to store these.

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Italian Ricotta Cookies Recipe (2024)
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