Nonna Santopietro's cookies

(John d. erickson)
April 2, 2008

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Makes about 24

Photographs can trigger nostalgia, but nothing like certain foods can. Perhaps it's because food sparks the sense memories (sight, smell, taste, even touch). My Nonna's lemon cookies take me back to my childhood up until my early 20s - when I stood beside her as she demonstrated how to make them. Teresa Marzilli Santopietro made these sweet rounds weekly, and had them ready for unexpected visitors; she even offered them to the postman. She mixed vegetable oil, milk, egg, and both vanilla and lemon extracts into a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt. To form the dough, put the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the center, and add sugar and the liquids - something like making pasta. Roll the dough into small balls, then bake them until the bottoms brown. When they cool, turn each cookie upside down and coat them in a lemon-scented confectioners' sugar frosting. The cookies are great morning biscuits, midday snacks, or dessert, and best accompanied by cappuccini. Just ask the postman.


2 1/2cups flour
1 1/2tablespoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2cup granulated sugar
1/4cup vegetable oil
1/2cup whole milk
1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2teaspoon lemon extract
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well. Make a well in the center.

3. Add the sugar, oil, milk, egg, and vanilla and lemon extracts. Beat the liquids with a fork until well combined. Slowly work the flour into the wet batter.

4. When the mixture forms a dough, roll pieces of it into 1 1/4-inch balls, slightly smaller than a golf ball. Lay them on the baking sheet. Bake them, rotating the sheet halfway through baking, for 18 minutes or until the bottoms brown and the tops turn a light golden. Cool completely.


2cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, or more to taste
3tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk
2teaspoons lemon extract

1. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, milk, and lemon extract.

2. Holding a cookie by the bottom, dip the top into the sugar mixture. The frosting should lightly coat the cookie. If necessary, add more confectioners' sugar to thicken the mixture, a touch of milk to thin it.

3. Continue with the remaining cookies. Set them on a wire rack until the frosting hardens. Jill Santopietro