Mama Musto’s Italian Cookies

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Mothers’ Day is tomorrow; and, for those of us who are celebrating with our children but have lost our own moms, it is a poignant day.

I miss my wonderful, sassy Sicilian mom so much.  It’s impossible to not think of her as I cook meals that she made for me and my sisters growing up—and it’s also impossible not to think of her as I try a new recipe and wish she were still here to try it.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s impossible to be in the kitchen and not remember her.

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My mom was a fabulous cook—but baking was not her thing.  Growing up, there were no homemade cookies of any kind.  No chocolate chip cookies—they either came from the supermarket or Lyndell’s Bakery, a well-known bakery to Somerville, MA, residents.  It was founded almost 130 years ago and is still going strong!  Any Italian cookies came from a local Italian bakery.

I don’t know what came over her; but, in the last years of her life, she tried these wonderful Italian cookies and liked them so much that she actually asked for the recipe.  Then, she not only made them—but made them regularly.

These cookies are not overly sweet which is probably one of the reasons she liked them so much; and they are so, so good with a cup of coffee or tea.  Basically, they are a plain vanilla cookie which is infused with a pleasant citrus flavor from orange zest and lemon extract.

The dough is easy to mix together and very easy to handle.  Working with it will remind you of Play-Doh.  It has a similar feel and won’t stick to your hands.

Depending on how large you form your cookies, you should get anywhere from 3 to 4 dozen cookies.  They keep very well in a Tupperware container and freeze well, too.  You’ll be happy to have them when you crave a little something with you cup of coffee, and you’ll be sorry when they’re gone.

Happy Mother’s Day…

One year ago:  Baked French Toast

Two years ago:  Almost Flourless Chocolate Cake

Three years ago:  Levain Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Clone

Four years ago:  Southwestern Eggs with Chorizo

Five years ago:  Strawberry Cake

Mama Musto’s Italian Cookies


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 1/2 to 6+ cups flour*
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 eggs (reserve one yolk for brushing tops of cookies)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • Grated orange zest from a large orange (orange zest only, not the white pith which is bitter)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract

*The amount of flour will depend on the size of your eggs.  You want to end up with a dough that is not sticky and will be easy to handle.


Line two (or more—depending on size of your oven) cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Beat eggs (minus the one yolk) with sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in oil, orange zest, vanilla, and lemon extract.  Add enough flour to make a soft dough.  You should be able to roll it by hand easily without it sticking to your fingers.

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Fashion long snake-like rolls, approximately 1/2″ in diameter.  Break off pieces and loop them (form a “U”) and then twist the two ends once.  (The shape is similar to the cancer symbol.)  Alternatively, be creative and shape them any way you darn please!

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Brush tops with reserved egg yolk which you have beaten.  Place on prepared cookie sheets.  Depending on the size you make them, you should easily get 3 dozen out of a batch.

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Bake at 350o F for approx. 15 to 20 minutes until golden on top.  If you like your Italian cookies with a little crunch to them, go the full 20 minutes.

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Fran’s Notes

My mom mixed the cookie dough by hand, but I used my KitchenAid mixer.  Once the dough started to get really thick, I switched from the paddle beater to the dough hook.

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Source:   Recipe from my mom

p.s.  One year when I was a young girl, I bought my mother this china tea cup for Mother’s Day.  I thought it was only fitting that I should have a cup of tea in it while I enjoyed one of her cookies.  Happy Mother’s Day, mom!  xoxo

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