Ricotta cheese is baked into these Almond Ricotta Cookies, which will help keep the cookies soft and fresh for all of your holiday visitors! This cookie looks rather plain and boring, but the flavour is tremendously good. Even after being frozen and thawed, it’s still a soft, and pillow-y cookie!
Almond Ricotta Cookies are my interpretation of the classic Italian Christmas cookies which uses lots of butter and lots of eggs. In addition, ground almonds and ricotta are traditionally used quite often in Italian cuisine.
I included this recipe because one of my favourite women in the world – who happens to be Italian – requested that I include an Italian cookie in my 24 Cookies of Christmas. This one is for you, Nadia!
You needn’t be Italian to love this cookie! It is so light and fluffy, the flavour of the almonds really shines through, and the sugar is so subtle. If you’re not a fan of overly sweet things, this cookie is certainly for you. Grab an espresso – let’s break this cookie down!
HERE IS WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:
- Butter – Make sure your butter is at room temperature! To be perfectly honest, I have made these with both salted and unsalted butter and there’s no difference in taste or appearance once all is said and done. Use what you have one hand.
- Brown Sugar – First of all, it has way more flavour! And, in this recipe, brown sugar helps to keep the cookie moist and soft.
- Sugar – Yes, white sugar is needed as well. Further down this page, you can read all about why you need to use both brown and white granulated sugar.
- Egg – One large egg is all you need. Whenever you set out to bake, make sure your eggs are at room temperature too – just like your butter!
- Almond Extract – This cookie is an almond cookie with real almonds. The extract just bumps up the almond flavour. If you don’t have any, you could substitute with vanilla.
- Ricotta – This is the key to this cookie recipe. Not only does it add flavour, but it keeps these cookies soft and pillow-y.
- Flour – No need for anything special. Just use regular all-purpose flour. I have not tried this recipe with any other type of flour.
- Baking Powder – This is used to increase the volume of the batter and to add texture as well.
- Ground Almonds – You can find these in any store now. If you have whole almonds, just pop them into your food processor and pulse them until they look like sand. Be careful not to over-pulse them or your will end up with almond butter!
MORE CHRISTMAS COOKIE RECIPES!
Did you know that I’ve been posting a 24 Cookies of Christmas series for a few years now? There are over 100 Christmas cookie recipes that you can find right here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen! To make it easier to find, I have created a page for each series. Just click on the image below and you’ll find the full series for that volume all one page!
DO I NEED TO USE BOTH WHITE AND BROWN SUGAR?
When it comes to regular granulated sugar and brown sugar, you should certainly use both of them if a particular recipe calls for it. And there’s good reason to use both too!
White sugar will caramelize when baked, which will help to brown the cookie, help the cookie to spread, and will create a crispness to the bottom of the cookie. In this particular recipe though, the addition of the brown sugar will contradict some of these things.
Brown sugar, which is made with molasses, will help to offset the crispiness, because it helps to keep a cookie soft and moist. Brown sugar will make a firmer dough, which will prevent the cookie from spreading too much, but at the same time will make the cookie soft and chewy.
So, yes, use both! If you use all of one or the other, you won’t end up with an inedible cookie, but it certainly won’t be well balanced like it would have been if you had used both granulated sugar and brown sugar.
WHY BAKE WITH RICOTTA?
I think ricotta cheese is probably one of the most unappreciated cheeses there is here in North America. And, I think the Italians are brilliant for incorporating the ingredient into way more dishes than we do!
Ricotta is light and fluffy, and that’s exactly what it’s going to do in your baking. Cookies, cakes, scones, pancakes, etc., can all use ricotta to give height, lightness, and of course moisture!
When you open a container of ricotta, there may be some liquid floating on top. This does not mean it’s spoiled. Just use a whisk to blend it back into the rest of the cheese.
MORE CHRISTMAS CONFECTIONS!
In some cases, we want more than a cookie. That’s why I have two more Christmas-themed collections you might want to consider. The first, is my 12 Bundt Cakes of Christmas, and the second is my 12 Biscotti of Christmas. Click on the image below to see each collection all on one page with links to each recipe!
HOW TO MAKE ALMOND RICOTTA COOKIES:
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and preparing a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set the baking sheet aside and beat the butter and both sugars together until they are light and fluffy. Then, beat in the egg and the almond extract.
Once that’s done, beat in the ricotta until you have a consistent mixture. Finally, add the remaining ingredients and beat them into the wet mixture until everything comes together to form your cookie dough. Easy so far, right?
Next, use a 1 tablespoon ice-cream or cookie scoop to portion the dough. Roll into balls, place onto the cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie. Press the back of a fork down onto each ball. Flatten the ball slightly to roughly 1/2 inch thick. Finally, top each cookie with a little bit of the remaining ground almonds.
Lastly, bake the cookies for exactly 13 minutes. Also, bake only one cookie sheet at a time for best results. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Finally, transfer to wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
There are a few substitutions that will work in this recipe. The first is the ricotta. You can easily substitute ricotta with cream cheese. It will change the taste slightly, but not in a bad way. Use whipped cream cheese, not spreadable, and certainly not brick!
An internet search will tell you that you can substitute ground almonds with semolina. I’m here to tell you that you can’t – not for this recipe. The whole point of this recipe is the almond flavour. If you’re allergic or have an aversion to almonds, don’t attempt this recipe. There are approximately 100 more Christmas recipes here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen you can make which do not require ground almonds!
You can substitute the almond extract, again, by doing so, you will change the flavour, but it won’t be the end of the world! I’m sure Nadia will forgive you! Use vanilla extract in equal amounts.
STORING, PACKAGING, AND FREEZING
These cookies will stay fresh for about 3-5 days in a covered container and in a cool place. But, if you plan to freeze these cookies, use a food-safe container that can be frozen. You’ll want to ensure a very tight fitting lid too. (I use these quite often when freezing baked goods.) I like to place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the container before pushing the lid on. This helps to create a better seal. The goal is to keep all of that cookie freshness locked in!
You can freeze these cookies for up to three months. They will come out of the freezer looking just like they did when you put them in there. Once you thaw them, they will taste just as fresh, and be just as soft, as the day you first baked them.
My dearest Nadia, I do hope my version of a classic Italian Christmas cookie pleases you and gains your approval. Almond Ricotta Cookies, after all, are rustic and homey; they’re simple and easy; and most importantly, they’re delicious!
If you’re feeling extra festive, make a double batch and share these with your friends and neighbours. I cannot tell you enough times how much people love to receive homemade Christmas cookies. And it feels so good to do so!
Just as an FYI, you don’t need to make this cookie only at Christmastime. Here’s a great lemon version that’s great all year round. It offers a freshness and brightness that’s perfect for a summertime version of this cookie.
Almond Ricotta Cookies
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat together the butter and both sugars until they become light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and almond extract; incorporate well.
- Add the ricotta and beat into the mixture.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and 1 cup of the finely ground almonds. Mix on low speed just until combined; do not over mix the batter.
- Use a 1 tablespoon ice-cream or cookie scoop to portion the batter. Roll into balls, place onto the cookie sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.
- Press the back of a fork down onto each ball. Flatten the ball slightly to roughly 1/2 inch thick.
- Top each cookie with a sprinkling of the remaining ground almonds.
- Bake for 13 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Finally, transfer to wire cooling rack to finish cooling.