Soft and tender with a cake like texture, these easy Italian ricotta cookies have a light lemon flavor and the ricotta cheese keeps them nice and moist. Sprinkled with a little sugar they are usually served at breakfast but also make the perfect snack cookie with a cup of tea!
Made in one bowl with simple ingredients, these easy Italian ricotta cookies are so absolutely delicious it may be hard to eat just one! They are simply the best with their light sweet taste and pillowy texture.
While I love to gift these Italian Christmas cookies at the holidays and serve these Italian Easter cookies at spring celebrations, when it comes to cookie recipes these are a great year round treat. Plus, you can make the ricotta cookie dough up to two days advance making them the perfect make ahead cookie.
You will love these easy to make melt-in-your-mouth Italian cookies that have a light lemon taste! Serve them with a glass of tea or milk to dunk them in and just watch them disappear.
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What are Ricotta Cookies?
This authentic Italian cookie is moist and soft due to the addition of ricotta cheese in the dough! They do not taste at all like cheese though, if you were wondering.
The ricotta adds a light flavor, a moist texture and since there is no butter or oil like in my lemon sugar cookies, these are a bit healthier than your traditional cookie. They are the perfect amount of sweetness and with their light lemon taste they are irresistible!
Ingredients and Notes
This Italian lemon ricotta cookie recipe is made with only 8 simple ingredients! You may even already have some of these basic ingredients on hand.
- All purpose flour: Plain flour provides structure to these cookies and is best to use. At least 11% protein.
- Sugar: You will need granulated sugar for the cookies and then either additional granulated sugar or coarse demerara sugar to top the cookies.
- Ricotta cheese: Ricotta adds moisture and gives these cookies their cake-like texture. You will need 300 grams which is equivalent to 1 ½ cups.
- Baking powder: Gives the cookies lift and rise.
- Egg: One room temperature large egg helps bind the ingredients together.
- Lemon zest: The zest of one lemon.
- Salt: Enhances all the flavors.
How to Make Italian Ricotta Cookies
To start in a food processor or large bowl whisk together your dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lemon zest.
Add the egg and ricotta, then pulse or combine with a fork just until the dough comes together. Be careful to not over mix the dough.
Move the ricotta cookie dough to a flat surface and gently knead a few times to form a compact dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
After the dough is chilled, divide the dough into 15 balls and then roll each ball into a 9 inch rope. Form the rope into a U shape then twist the ends together.
Place them on the prepared parchment lined cookie sheet, brush with milk and then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake light golden brown on the bottoms. Cool for 10 minutes on the pan then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Do not overmix the dough: Otherwise your cookies will be too dense.
- Measure correctly: As with any baking recipe, measuring your flour is very important to retain a light texture. I love to use the scoop and level method for measuring flour.
- Bake completely: Unlike most cookies where it is okay to underbake them, these cookies need to be fully baked. Otherwise their soft texture is prone to breaking.
- Line your pan: Cover your baking pan with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Greasing your pan may cause your cookies to spread too much.
- Wet ricotta: If your ricotta is very wet then drain in a sieve for 15-20 minutes otherwise your cookies will be too moist.
- Extract: Add a dash of vanilla extract or almond extract for an extra layer of flavor.
- Scoop and bake: Instead of shaping these cookies use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop and make drop cookies.
- Glaze and sprinkles: Although this is not authentic, you can glaze your cookies and then add some fun sprinkles. Make an easy glaze with powdered sugar and milk and then adapt the color of the sprinkles for the occasion!
- Other citrus zest: Try lime zest or orange zest for a different flavor!
- Chocolate chips: Add some white chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips to the dough.
A darker baking sheet may be the reason! If you are using a darker pan, you may need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes.
Once the cookies become golden on top and on the bottom of the cookies they are ready!
If you don’t chill the dough long enough the ricotta cookies will spread too much and go flat when you bake them. Be sure to use a flour with at least 11% flour this will help keep them from spreading. Also be careful to not leave the dough out too long on the counter before you bake them as that will cause the dough to warm up.
Yes, you can prep these cookies ahead of time! Form your lemon ricotta cookies the night before and store them covered in the refrigerator until it is time to bake them.
How to Store Ricotta Cookies
Store your baked ricotta cookies in an airtight container in a cool spot either in your kitchen or refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If you have stored them in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature before serving.
How to freeze the cookies
To freeze the cookies, be sure to cool them completely then store your baked cookies in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer safe bag, for up to 3 months. Thaw before enjoying.
More Delicious Ricotta Dessert Recipes
I love baking with ricotta it heightens the flavor and texture of the baked good, this Italian lemon ricotta cake is a great example and you can’t forget these Orange ricotta cookies or Cassatelle with ricotta but don’t stop there, it makes the best filling especially in Cannoli or even this easy Ricotta cheesecake!
So when you are looking for a simple and easy Ricotta Cookie recipe I hope you give these cookies a try and of course let me know. Enjoy!
Easy Italian Ricotta Cookies
- 1-2 baking sheets
- 2 cups all purpose flour with at least 11% protein
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups ricotta cheese*
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- zest of one lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
* If the ricotta is very wet then drain in a sieve for 15-20 minutes.
- 1-2 tablespoons Demerara sugar or granulated sugar
- In a food processor or large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and zest. Add the egg and ricotta, pulse or combine with a fork just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix.
- Move the dough to a flat surface and gently knead a few times to form a compact dough, if you find the dough too wet then add a little more flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 300F/150C. Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into 15 balls and roll each ball into a 9 inch / 23 cm rope, form into a U shape then twist the ends together, place on the prepared baking sheets, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden. Let cool 10 minutes on the pan then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Jeffrey Pike says
An absolutely wonderful recipe. It brought me right back to being in Italy.
Hi Jeffrey, thanks so much, so glad I could bring back memories. Take care!
Dough was hard to work with To soft, maybe more flour.?
Hi Louise, if the dough is too soft then yes you should add a bit more flour, some flour absorb liquids different than others. Take care!
They were terrible.
All seemed well until I tried to roll them.
It was so sticky it would not roll.
I did bake “blobs” and they never did get done.
The recipe needs adjusting.
Hi Pat, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour, flours are different and they absorb the wet ingredients differently. Also if your ricotta is extremely wet it should be placed drained.