Italian Holiday Cookie Traditions

Chris Rov Costa
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photography by
Chris Rov Costa
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November 15, 2015

The paper is frayed and has a yellowish tint. The words are hard to read. There's a list of ingredients, but the measurements are sporadic and the instructions are random at best. It seems obvious that the only reason this wrinkled piece of paper has made it from generation to generation and kitchen to kitchen is not because it's an accurate recipe or even usable for most people, but because it's treasured by the family that inherited it.

When I was growing up I remember my grandmother congregating with her cousins and close friends to bake cookies for the holidays. To a child, these women seemed like an army, buzzing around the kitchen with laser focus.

Dividing, kneading and rolling out dough and then filling tins with dozens and dozens of biscotti, pignolis, butter cookies and pizzelles. The fruits of their labor would later be shared with family and friends and would adorn our own holiday table.

Food memories certainly have a way of transporting us back to our past, but they also have a strong influence on our future. I will always think of my grandmother when I taste a perfectly made pizzelle or take a bite from a chewy, almond flavored pignoli cookie. It's those memories that remind me to take time during the holidays to bake with my own family. To me, one of the best gifts I can give this season is to instill a new food memory upon someone I love.

Here are some of my favorite Italian cookie recipes, some passed down and others discovered over the years. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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