Everyone loves to bake, eat and share Italian Christmas cookies during the holiday season, which in Italy is quite long. To get you all the way through to the Ephipany on January 8th, here is a list of the 10 best--along with links to authentic recipes from Italy...
Struffoli: This is perhaps one of the most popular Christmas cookies known to most Italian-Americans. Italians in southern Italy inherited this recipe from the Greeks, after all, southern Italy was originally Magna Grecia--part of the Greek culture way before the Romans. They are small fried balls covered with honey and sprinkles, often piled into a little mountain. RECIPE
Zaletti: This biscotto gets its name from the Venetian dialect word for yellow--zálo. They are yellow from the stone ground corn flour they are made from. This is a very ancient peasant recipe which typically contains raisins soaked in either grappa or some other spirit, then dusted with powdered sugar. They are eaten with a sweet dessert wine or with espresso in the morning. RECIPE
Cuccidati: Cucciddato (also, Buccellati) is filled, shaped biscotto made in Sicily during the Christmas season. They are stuffed with dried figs, raisins, orange peel, honey, chocolate and dried fruit. They can be small, but can also be donut sized and can be made as a large ring torta. The traditional nut used are pistachios, but walnuts or almonds can also be used. RECIPE
Mostaccioli: These chocolate covered, spiced biscuits are essentially the gingerbread of southern Italy. The recipes can vary greatly, but usually contain some sort of holiday spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, citrus and perhaps wine must (the root of the name). They can be hard or softer depending on the regional recipe, with the hardest recipes being used to create shaped mostaccioli (animals, religious figures, etc.) . The most popular shape for home bakers is a diamond or rhombus. RECIPE
I hope you enjoy making these recipes. You might have to do some metric conversions but the slight trouble will be worth it.
Buon appetito e Buon Natale a tutti!
--Jerry, Lisa and Lucas Finzi