Italian Sugar Cookies

IMG_4140Pennsylvania Macaroni Company is my favorite shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. If you’ve never been, you simply must go and marvel at the bins of almonds, the shelves of pasta and olive oil and sauces, the room with the cheese counter that rivals any I’ve ever seen.

In the room with the bread and fresh pasta, there are boxes of mixed bakery-style cookies, and in those boxes are cookies like these. Tender, vanilla-scented, covered in just the right amount of icing. The kind of cookies your grandmother made, and you never forgot.

I enjoy recipes with lots of ingredients and advanced techniques for the fun challenge they present, but there is also great comfort in baking something simple. These cookies are easy to prepare and could take on any color icing, making them ideal for holidays and celebrations.


For the cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the icing

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • food coloring, if desired


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing between each. Dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl when it is the right consistency.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough and roll into balls. (You can use a smaller scoop if you like; next time, I’ll probably use a 1-inch scoop.) Place dough on parchment-lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool before dipping in icing.

To make the icing, in a small bowl, combine milk, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar until smooth. Tint with food coloring if desired.

Dip the tops of the cookies in icing; place on wire racks and allow excess to drip off. Let stand until set, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.