Italian Cookies

There are many Italian cookies. But over and over there is ONE cookie that means ‘Italian”.

Even in my family, the name is consistent, but the spelling is forever changing. Sometimes charmella, or sharmella or ciamellas…..

This is what they look like - most of the time......

This is what they look like – most of the time……


from Peter Brears – the same cookie is known as jumbles or jemellos in English.

Anise flavored with  anise icing and the all important sprinkles, confetinni, which are round sprinkles and bounce all over the kitchen….Often shaped round little snowballs, but could also be twisted rings or knots.

The knot shape

The knot shape

Italian Cookies

(Right, like there’s only ONE…)


½ # butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

2 Tablespoons vanilla

4 cups flour

2 Tablespoons baking powder


½ box confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1 Tablespoon anise extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Add eggs and flavoring. Mix well.
  4. Blend in flour and baking powder. Work to form a soft pliable dough.
  5. Cut off pieces of dough the size of a walnut.
  6. Roll to about ½” thickness about 2 ½” long or a straight 2 ½” pencil shape.
  7. Bake in a 375° oven until lightly brown about 15-20 minutes.
  8. Cookies may be iced or left plain.
  9. Icing: Blend sugar and anise extract, adding milk slowly to form a soft smooth icing. Ice cookies while war, sprinkle confettini over top.

Anna Guecia, John Paul I Lodge, #2427 in

Preserving Our Italian Heritage. A Cookbook. Sons of Italy Florida Foundation. 1991. p. 177.

But, wait – there’s MORE…

Comments: I shape my cookies into knots, bake, then frost with vanilla flavored sugar icing and sprinkle with confettini or colored sugar.

Mary Lozito, Rev. Albert B. Palumbo Lodge # 2512


Comments: My cookies are shaped into bows, braids or knots and I use anise flavoring in the icing.

Josephine Ragone, Jerry Barletta Lodge #2502


Comments: I break off pieces of dough, roll out into a short pencil shape, then shape the dough around my finger to form a turban. I use fresh lemon juice to flavor the icing and top with red sprinkles.

Nancy Bonamo, Ft. Lauderdale Lodge #2263

Preserving Our Italian Heritage. A Cookbook. Sons of Italy Florida Foundation. 1991. p. 177. (KAF – Jan 2002)

Preserving Our Italian Heritage - I got this through the  King Arthur Flour catalog

Preserving Our Italian Heritage – I got this through the King Arthur Flour catalog

Italian Cookies

1 cup sugar (white)

3 eggs

1 stick margarine

1 cup water

1 teaspoon anise

4 teasp baking powder

4 cups flour

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix sugar, marg, eggs, flavor. Put in flour and baking powder + water . Mix until dough is thick. Add rest measure by teaspoons on floured board roll into balls bake on buttered baking sheet 5-6 min at 350°


4 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon anise

2 cups powdered sugar

Mix altogether. Frost when cool.

The oldest paper copy that I have from Auntie Elide. She handed out recipes to anyone who asked. But she wasn’t a recipe writer by training. I have at least three different versions, and my sister’s is another variation, and then there’s cousin Flora’s …..

The moral of this cookie is that sometimes a recipe isn’t enough – you have to make the cookie with the cookie maker. Bake with someone this Christmas season.

On the other hand with all the versions in the Preserving Our Italian Heritage there is definitely a through line. There is also a local company – Toni’s Own  – that makes a very nice version. The company is from Wakefield, Mass which is where Auntie Elide lived.They are now in Peabody

.Toni's own logo

Noble Pig has this version

Noble Pig has this version – click the link


Filed under Christmas, Holiday, Italian, Recipe

3 responses to “Italian Cookies

  1. Irma Wall

    This is my favourite Italian Cookie………..IMW

  2. LaTinque

    So glad to see your version! I’ll definitely try them … NEXT year!

  3. Pingback: It’s Christmas Time in the Kitchen | Foodways Pilgrim

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