Italian Ricotta Cookies are always popular! Our recipe for Italian Ricotta Cookies. Soft, tender and fluffy sprinkle cookies with a cake-like texture that melts in your mouth will have them asking which bakery they came from!
What are Ricotta Cookies?
Ricotta Cookies are soft and tender cookies with a fluffy cake-like texture.
These cookies have many different names. Italian Sprinkle Cookies, Italian Christmas Cookies, and Ricotta Cheese Cookies are just a few.
They are not like regular sugar cookies and you will not be able to roll these out for cut out cookies.
Instead, they are more like an old-fashioned southern tea cake with glaze and sprinkles.
Ricotta Cheese in cookies? Do Ricotta Cookies Taste Like Cheese?
You will not even notice that it is cheese in a cookie.
Ricotta cookies taste like flavored sugar cookies with a cakey texture.
Can I Substitute the Ricotta Cheese in Ricotta Cookies?
In theory, you could replace the ricotta cheese with cream cheese. Not sure you can call it a ricotta cookie though.
I would not make that substitution because of the tangy flavor. With cream cheese in these cookies, you will notice that there is cheese in the cookie.
Ricotta cookies tend to be bland which is why whatever flavoring is added to the cookies shine through.
Cream cheese is denser than ricotta cheese and will impact the texture of these Italian cookies.
A cream cheese cookie would be more suitable for rolling and using cookie cutters.
Ricotta Cookies need to be flavored. They will be very plain and bland without it. They also benefit from the addition of a flavored glaze.
We prefer to flavor our cookies with almond extract.
Other traditional ricotta cookie flavors include lemon, orange, and anise.
To make lemon ricotta cookies add 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice to the cookie dough. These cookies will be flatter than cookies using an extract.
You could substitute lemon extract for the almond extract in this recipe for puffier cookies, but the flavor will not be as bright and fresh as it will be using fresh lemons.
To make orange ricotta cookies, use the same substitutions as above for the lemon cookies.
To make anise-flavored ricotta cookies add 1 to 3 teaspoons of anise flavoring depending on how strong of a black licorice flavor you are looking for.
Substitute the same flavoring in the glaze as you used in the ricotta cookie.
Forming and Baking Italian Sprinkle Cookies
Italian Ricotta Sprinkle cookies should not spread as much as sugar cookie recipes. They should look like half balls when they come out of the oven.
Ricotta cookie dough is very soft and using a scoop is the best way to get these cookies formed.
The dough is much easier to work with if it has been refrigerated for an hour before attempting to scoop them out. This step can be skipped but will produce flatter cookies.
I give my cookie balls another 10 minutes in the refrigerator before baking to ensure that my cookies are as fluffy as possible. This step can also be skipped, but will also result in flatter cookies than those in the photos.
Ricotta cookies only need to be baked until the bottoms have started to turn golden brown. They are supposed to have a cake-like texture. We are not looking for any crispy bits!
Since the cookies are very soft, they need to be completely cooled before attempting to glaze them. Glazing these cookies while hot or warm will cause the glaze to be absorbed and create a soggy cookie.
You can make a thicker cookie glaze by adding more powdered sugar and you can make a thinner glaze by adding more milk.
I usually dip the tops of my ricotta cookies into the flavored glaze and set them back onto the cooling rack. An alternative to dipping the cookies is to spoon the glaze over the top.
More glaze may be needed when using the spoon technique. A thicker glaze will also do better with the spooning method.
More sprinkles stick to the ricotta cookie glaze if I stop and add them about every 10 to 12 cookies. If I wait until all of the cookies have been glazed, the first cookies I glazed have started to harden and the sprinkles bounce right off.
These cookies can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Some recipes call for storing in an airtight container, but I tend to keep mine at room temperature on a plate loosely covered with plastic wrap.
The only real rule for storing ricotta cookies is to use parchment or wax paper in between the layers of cookies to keep the bottoms of the cookies from sticking to the glaze of any cookies under them.
Ricotta cookies will stay fairly fresh for up to 4 days.
Baked cookies can be frozen but do not put the icing on until they have thawed.
Mini Cookies for Santa’s Elves
Ricotta Cookies can be made into a mini version, perfect for serving up on a plate Christmas Eve for Santa’s elves.
To make the mini elf cookies use ¼ teaspoon of dough. This may be a little messy, but they are just so cute it is worth the messy fingers!
Bake the elf size cookies at 350⁰F for 5 to 6 minutes.
Glaze and sprinkle the cookies after they have cooled. Be sure and make lots of extra elf cookies, little fingers can easily grab this cute little cookie version.
Try adding some elf-size peanut butter blossoms to the elf cookie plate.
More Cookie Recipes from Pear Tree Kitchen
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Italian Ricotta Cookies
- 1 cup salted butter softened
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Ricotta Cookie Glaze
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 5 ounces nonpareils any color
- In a large bowl beat softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time mixing well in between.
- Add ricotta cheese, vanilla, and almond extract and beat until smooth.
- Add the baking powder and baking soda and mix until incorporated.
- Add the flour and mix just until the flour is combined.
- Place the dough into the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven 350⁰F.
- Form cookie balls using about 2 teaspoons of dough.
- Place cookie balls into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Place the cookie balls onto a cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookie begin to just brown.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute and remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Italian Cookie Icing
- While cookies are cooling combine the glaze ingredients and mix until smooth.
- When cookies are cooled, spoon glaze over the cookies and sprinkle with nonpareils before the glaze begins to harden.
- Alternatively, cookie tops can be dipped into the glaze, allow the excess glaze to drip off the cookies and then placed onto a rack to finish hardening.
- Cookies can be stored uncovered or uncovered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days before they start becoming soggy.