Pizzicati are jam-filled Italian shortbread cookies that are totally gorgeous, yet so easy to make. A buttery cookie dough is wrapped around sweet jam filling, baked until golden, then dusted with confectioners sugar.
If you have never heard of pizzicati, you’re in for a treat. Also called “Italian Pinch Cookies,” this classic Italian dessert is made by rolling out a butter-based cookie dough, then cutting it into circles. A dollop of jam is added to each round, then the ends are pinched together. The end result is a buttery shortbread cookie with a perfectly sweet jam center, just like my husband’s Italian grandmother used to make.
I used apricot jam, but you could use blueberry, strawberry or any other flavor. Once the cookies have cooled, dust them with confectioners sugar for a snowy effect that’s effortlessly elegant.
Why You’ll Love Pizzicati
- Light, crisp texture. Pizzicati are light, buttery jam-filled cookies with irresistible, delicate crunch. They’re not too sweet, either, which is a win in my books.
- Easy to make. The dough for pizzicati is so simple, and you likely have everything you need to make it already. You can even make the cookie dough in advance.
- Versatile. You can enjoy pizzicati with your morning cup of coffee, as an afternoon snack, or even add them to your Christmas cookie tray.
Pizzicati cookies, also called biscotti pizzicati or “pinch cookies”, are Italian shortbread cookies filled with jam. These are small, two-bite cookies, sold in local forni (bakeries) all over Italy, where it’s common to enjoy pizzicati dipped into a cup of espresso or coffee.
What’s in Pizzicati?
I’ve included notes on the important ingredients below. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card after the post with the full ingredient amounts and recipe details.
- Flour – I’ve found that all-purpose flour gives pizzicati the best texture and keeps the cookies from spreading in the oven.
- Powdered sugar – The dough for these light and delicate shortbread cookies uses powdered sugar, also called confectioner’s sugar. If you don’t have any handy, try pulsing regular granulated sugar in the blender or food processor until you reach a fine powder. I also like to save some to dust over the baked cookies for a frosted finish.
- Baking powder and salt
- Butter – I recommend unsalted butter, brought to room temperature before you start.
- Filling – Traditional pizzicati are filled with jam, and you can use any kind that you’d like. I fill my cookies with apricot jam, but strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, or lemon are all tasty options. See the section further on for more variations.
These pinch cookies really are a cinch to make. The dough is simple, and you combine the ingredients in one bowl. Afterward, all it takes is some chilling for the dough to be ready for rolling. I’ll sometimes make a big batch of dough and then spend the next couple of days making batches of cookies for freezing.
Here’s how to make pizzicati cookies from scratch:
- Make the dough. First, sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Next, add butter, egg, and vanilla, and mix until the dough forms. You can do this by hand, in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer.
- Chill. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and place it into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough. While the oven preheats to 350ºF, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out. Use a cookie cutter to cut the cookies out into small rounds.
- Fill and fold the cookies. Now, place a teaspoon of jam in the center of each dough circle. Carefully bring the two sides of the dough together and give it a pinch with wet fingers to seal (see photo).
- Bake. Transfer the finished cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and then bake at 350ºF for 12-15 minutes. The cookies should be lightly golden at the edges. Afterward, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a bit before moving them to a wire rack . Once the cookies are cool, dust them with powdered sugar.
Recipe Tips and Variations
These cookies are far from complicated! I’ve picked up a few tips over the course of testing this recipe that might be of help:
- Double-pinch the cookies. After filling the cookies, pinch the cookie dough together once, and then a second time with wet fingers. This ensures that the cookies don’t pop open while baking.
- Use room-temperature ingredients. Take the butter out of the fridge approximately 30 minutes to an hour ahead of using it.
- Use a stand mixer if you have one. It helps speed up the dough-making process.
- Depending on the size of your cookie cutter and how thin you roll out the dough, you may end up with more or fewer cookies. Aim to roll the dough to about ¼” thick.
- Add lemon zest. For a burst of light citrus flavor, mix a bit of lemon zest into the cookie dough.
- Try another kind of jam. You can fill these cookies with any type of fruit jam or preserve you’d like. Other good options are strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, lemon preserves, orange marmalade, or fig jam.
- Fill with Nutella. For a chocolate-hazelnut twist, fill these pizzicati cookies with Nutella.
Ways to Enjoy Pizzicati
I love eating pizzicati with a hot cup of coffee or tea. If I have a few extra minutes, they are incredible with a honey-vanilla latte or a caramel brulee latte! You can even dip your cookies into your coffee, if you like.
Pizzicati also make a wonderful addition to your Christmas cookie platter. Serve them with gingersnap cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies and Grinch cookies. Or, if you want to stick with the international theme, Italian pinch cookies pair beautifully with cuccidati (Italian fig Christmas cookies) and melomakarona (Greek Christmas cookies).
How to Make Ahead and Store
- Make ahead. To get a head start on these cookies, prepare the cookie dough up to 3 days in advance. Keep the dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.
- To store. Store baked pizzicati cookies in an airtight container on the counter, with parchment paper between any layers. Properly stored, these cookies stay fresh for about 3-4 days.
- Freeze. I love having a batch of cookies in the freezer leading up to big gatherings. To freeze pizzicati, wait until the cookies are fully cool, then place them into an airtight container (use parchment paper to separate the layers). I recommend holding off on dusting the cookies with powdered sugar until after they’ve thawed.
More Italian Desserts to Try
For the dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- ⅓ cup jam, apricot, strawberry, etc. I used apricot
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt.
- Add wet ingredients. Add softened butter, egg, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough comes together. You can do this by hand, in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer.
- Chill. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30-40 minutes to allow it to firm up.
- Prep. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Fill and pinch the cookies. Roll the dough about ¼ inch thick. Using the cookie cutter, cut the cookies. Add a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each circle. Gently bring the two ends together and press them, then moisten your fingers slightly with water and give the dough another pinch. This extra step ensures the dough remains sealed during the baking process.
- Bake. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges.
- Cool. Once baked, remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Then dust the cookies with powdered sugar.