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Italian Ricotta Cookies

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Say (ricotta) cheese!

This recipe for Italian ricotta cookies combines simple ingredients with ricotta cheese for a soft, happy sprinkle cookie with just the right notes of vanilla and lemon. 

cookie platter of baked cookies

Meet this ricotta cookie recipe

There is arguably no such thing as a bad cookie. But some cookies are especially, well, special. Ricotta cookies are one of these.

These little Italian vanilla cookies are simple, soft cookie made by combining ricotta with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, lemon zest, and leaveners into a drop cookie dough and baked.

Topped with a simple glaze and sprinkles, ricotta cookies are homey, satisfying, and look and taste like pure joy. In my family, they’re served at holidays, baby showers, weddings, birthday parties, summer barbecues, as a Christmas cookie, and more. They are a wonderful Italian tradition perfect for any occasion, and soon to be yours, too.

ricotta cookie ingredients of ricotta cheese, sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla
Simple ingredients are all that’s needed to make ricotta cookies

Choosing ricotta for ricotta cookies

A word about homemade ricotta

Ricotta cheese is made by heating a mixture of milk and cream, then adding an acid such as vinegar to curdle it into — you guessed it — curds. The mixture, separated into curds and liquid whey, then gets drained through a colander lined with cheesecloth and chilled. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian.

You can certainly make your own if you prefer, but I do not think it is worth the effort when the subtle differences in texture and flavor will get lost amid the other ingredients.

The power of store-bought ricotta

Yes, homemade ricotta is delicious. But I am in favor of a high-quality, store-bought brand of ricotta for ease.

Use good, whole milk ricotta cheese for ricotta cookies. The quality and moisture content of the ricotta will affect how to cookies taste and turn out. Choose a brand that is thick and creamy, not watery or grainy. I prefer Polly-O and Trader Joe’s brands of ricotta, but choose whichever you prefer. If your ricotta seems a bit runny, you can drain it in a colander lined with cheesecloth to thicken it up.

scooped cookie dough on baking sheet
Scoop the cookie dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving space between each.

How to Make Italian Ricotta Cookies

Ricotta cheese often gets associated with savory Italian recipes like baked ziti or lasagna. But ricotta, with its mild flavor and creamy but not-too-rich texture, can be used for desserts as well.

These are simple drop cookies made by combining simple ingredients in a mixing bowl, then baked and glazed. This recipe easily doubles if you need a lot of cookies. A single recipe will yield around 32 ricotta cookies.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 stick of softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for the glaze
  • Lemon juice, orange juice, milk, or water to mix the glaze
  • Rainbow or colored sprinkles of your choice

Note that this ricotta cookies recipe does not call for any additional salt. I find that ricotta usually contains enough salt already, and consider salt already part of the cookie recipe.

Directions:

These drop cookies follow a straightforward creaming method style.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest over medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined.
  4. Stir in the ricotta and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl with a spatula.
  5. Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and stir the dry mixture into the wet ingredients on low, just until fully combined.
  6. Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least an inch of space between each as they will spread slightly.
  7. Bake one cookie sheet at a time, in the center rack, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops look light but dry.
  8. Let the cookies sit for a couple of minutes to firm up on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Glaze and sprinkle.

Italian ricotta cookies on wire cooling rack

How to add the glaze and sprinkles to finish the ricotta cookies

Is it me, or do sprinkles make cookies even more delicious? Fun and festive, certainly. These cookies taste lovely plain, but Italian ricotta cookies traditionally come with a simple, thin glaze and a sprinkling of colored sugars or rainbow sprinkles.

Mix the glaze by combining confectioner’s sugar with water, lemon juice, orange juice, or milk in a bowl, and mixing with a fork or whisk until the glaze is the consistency of thick cream. Dip the top of the cookies into the glaze, and place them back on the cooling rack. Before the glaze dries, sprinkle the tops with your preferred sprinkles.

F.A.Q.s: Storing, Freezing, and Serving These Cookies

These little Italian treats will keep just fine in an airtight container at room temperature for about three days. They also freeze very well for up to three months, even with the glaze. Do not refrigerate; refrigeration will dry them out.

platter of baked Italian ricotta cookies with glaze and sprinkles on top

If you like these Italian ricotta cookies, you’ll also love these great desserts:

Italian ricotta cookies with sprinkles and glaze

Italian Ricotta Cookies

These traditional Italian cookies are an absolute hit, and easy to make. They taste soft and light, with just the right flavors from vanilla and lemon zest. This recipe is easily doubled, and the cookies freeze well.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian, Italian-American
Keywords:: christmas cookies, cookies, easy baking, italian, ricotta
Servings: 32 cookies or so
Calories: 111kcal
Print

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound butter, softened (1 stick; 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 8 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese (1 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice, milk, or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles or colored sprinkles of your choice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest over medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined. Stir in the ricotta and mix over medium speed until combined. Scrape the bowl with a spatula.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and stir the dry mixture into the wet ingredients on low, just until fully combined.
  • Use a teaspoon or small cookie scoop to scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least an inch of space between each as they will spread slightly.
  • Bake one cookie sheet at a time, in the center rack, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops look light but dry.
  • Remove the ricotta cookies from the oven. Let them sit for a couple of minutes to firm up on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the Glaze and to Finish

  • Mix the glaze by combining the confectioner's sugar with water, lemon juice, orange juice, or milk in a bowl. Mix with a fork or whisk. The consistency of the glaze should be like thick cream.
    PRO TIP: Lemon juice or orange juice will give the cookies a more pronounced citrus flavor. Milk and water will taste more neutral and simply sweet.
  • Dip the top of the cookies into the glaze, and place them back on the cooling rack. Before the glaze dries, sprinkle the tops with your preferred sprinkles.
    PRO TIP: The glaze will drip a little as it dries, so I like to place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper below the wire rack to catch the drips of glaze. It makes for easier cleanup.

Notes

Storage: These little Italian ricotta cookies will keep just fine in an airtight container at room temperature for about three days.
Freezing: The cookies also freeze very well for up to three months in an airtight container, even with the glaze. Do not refrigerate; refrigeration will dry them out.

Nutrition

Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 61mg | Potassium: 20mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 128IU | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 0.5mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition information is provided for courtesy purposes only, and is an estimate not verified by medical or nutrition experts. Read the full nutrition disclaimer.

2 comments

  • Can these be made with gluten free flour?
    Thanks!

    • Unpeeled

      Absolutely, Pat! In fact, the batch you see photographed was made with GF flour because I was taking them to a party where someone has an allergy. I prefer Cup4Cup brand. It’s a 1:1 substitution.

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