Italian Anisette “S” Cookies

Old recipe for Italian Anisette Cookies, or “S” cookies,  just like my husband’s grandma used to make.  These have icing and sprinkles on them and will be a great addition to your holiday cookie trays.

Old recipe for Italian Anisette Cookies, or "S" cookies,  just like my husband's grandma used to make.  These have icing and sprinkles on them and will be a great addition to your holiday cookie trays.

My husband’s grandmother, who was the sweetest lady ever, passed away a couple of years ago.  She was always known for her cooking and baking and she really was the best at it.  She was especially famous for her Italian cookies and her lasagna.  We would traditionally always have it on holidays before the main meat course and we still carry on that tradition to this day.  I am half Italian, but as of a couple of years ago I had never really made any Italian cookies or lasagna as I never had an Italian grandmother in my life to teach me until I met my husband.  I had perfected my sauce and meatballs, but that was as far as it went.  A couple of nights before my husband’s grandmother died, she requested that I make her lasagna recipe for the family and bring it over to her apartment.  I panicked a little (a LOT) because those were big shoes to fill and I tried to politely get out of it.  Long story short, I ended up sucking it up making the lasagna just to please her and she loved it.  I think it made her happy to know that her famous lasagna would live on and continue to be enjoyed by the family.

These are hard core Italian
These are hard core Italian

Grandma's recipe for Italian "S" cookies.  These have white frosting and red and green sprinkles on them and will be a great holiday dessert.

Last Christmas, I decided to make one of her famous Italian cookies:  her Almond Macaroons.  I was so proud of myself because they did taste just like hers.  I love carrying on traditions!  This year I decided to tackle her Italian Anisette Cookies, also known as “S” cookies.  Sometimes she frosted them and sometimes she left them plain, but I decided I definitely wanted to go the frosting and sprinkles route.  I love to jazz up my cookies a little and make them as pretty looking as possible.  We eat with our eyes, right?! The cookie dough itself is not overly sweet so the icing really is not overkill.  These turned out perfect.  These were moist, delicious and authentic Italian cookies with a nice anisette flavor.

Grandma's traditional Italian recipe for Anisette or "S" cookies.  These have white icing and holiday sprinkles and will be the perfect Christmas cookie.

These are hard core Italian, people.  This cookie gets it’s flavoring from the anise extract.  If you are not familiar with anise – the closest thing to compare its taste to is black licorice.  It’s not a super strong black licorice flavor, but if you have an aversion to it you can use almond, vanilla, or lemon extract…all varieties will taste great.

I hope that these Italian Anisette Cookies brought back great childhood memories for my husband.  These will be a great addition to your cookie trays this holiday and I will be making them every year from now on.  Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without this recipe!

Making the Italian "S" cookies on my Silpat Mat

Before going in to the oven.

Grandma's recipe for Italian "S" cookies.  These have white icing and Christmas sprinkles on them and will be a great addition to your holiday cookie trays.

Italian Anisette Cookies
Recipe type: cookie, dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 dozen
Old recipe for Italian Anisette Cookies, or "S" cookies, like my husband's grandma used to make. These will be a great addition to your holiday cookie tray.
  • 1½ sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temp
  • ½ cup milk, room temp
  • 5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 6 generous teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract (can use lemon or almond extract)
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • ½ pound of confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Mix in the anise. Add in the milk and flour, alternating portions of each until all combined.
  3. Turn dough onto a floured board and knead until dough is firm and not sticky, adding more flour if necessary.
  4. Break off a handful of dough at a time and roll into long pencil, cut into 5 or 6 inch pieces. Shape into ‘S’ shape on ungreased cookie sheet. These cookies will puff up. Bake approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove to cool on rack, then frost. Makes about 5 dozen depending on size of cookie.
  5. Frosting: In a large bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add in ½ pound of confectioners’ sugar. Stir in milk, stirring to incorporate well, to a desired consistency for frosting the cookies. Brush on cookies or use a spoon, apply sprinkles right away and return to rack to set.
  6. Let cool completely and store in airtight containers.

 Recipe source:  adapted from


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These little S-shaped cookies remind me of Dutch Letters that my husband’s family adores. I love that you are using your grandmother’s recipes and have successfully recreated them. She would be so proud!

These look so pretty and sound delicious. In the southwest we can make or buy anise tamales with raisins and other goodies in the masa. I’d love it if you shared these at Holiday Best with the Tumbleweed Contessa.


We had “S” cookies (as my sister and I called them) all the time growing up! I haven’t ever tried making them myself. Hmmm you have me thinking about adding them to my ever-growing baking list…

That was so sweet. I love that you’re carrying on the traditions, that’s what it’s all about. 🙂 I’ve never had these cookies, but I’ve heard of them. I adore anise-anything, so I’m going to try adding these to my holiday baking this year!

Awww – so sweet that you carry on your husband’s grandmothers recipes – even though she isn’t here – she is looking down at you so proud because, Ashley, these cookies look fantastic! They look so soft and you sure are right – I do eat with my eyes!

i noticed the ingredients list baking powder but this directions say baking soda. I wanted to try the cookies but want to make sure it is right

This is a great recipe for a very legit anisette cookie!
This by far, is the closest to my grandmother’s.
Sending a copy to my mom right now!
Thanks for posting!
Merry Christmas!

Both my husband and myself come from an Italian family and these cookies are so well loved, some of our southern friends are not too crazy about the anise flavor so i will do with lemon also.Will also do them in a figure 8 or twist and your recipe here is just like mine.
First time ever i have seen anyone else make these. Way to go girl and i know Grandmom would be so proud. Bless you and thank you for all the other yummy cookie recipes that i will be checking out, hugs.

I am Italian/Polish, My Italian Grandmother also made the “S” cookies. Not iced, but the recipe was similar. She also made some with orange flavor for the ones who did not like the anise taste. I have decided to make only Italian cookies this year for our clubs cookie exchange. You have inspired me, thank you. About the Ricotta cookies,can that recipe be doubled, or is it best to make two separate batches. Thanks, Cathy

I am so excited to find this recipe and I will give it a try. My Italian grandma made fabulous S-shaped cookies. When I asked her for he recipe she said “a little of this, a little of that.” I have been searching for a good recipe for a long time.

Thank you! My grandmother-in-law (from Italy) made similar cookies but left out the extract. She would twist them. But, they are the same recipe minus the anise. I have literally never seen a recipe even close to that one until now.

My Ma (RIP), was also full blooded Italian, and as I read your blog it sounds like myself telling the story. She too was a cook and Baker and like you would ALWAYS have lasagna either the before or of holidays. She would get together with about five of her friends dubbed ” The Mafia Ladies” and a bottle of Amaretto and make Hundreds of Italians. When she came to visit Ma and my wife would take a day and make cookies and completed she would say, No go share witha you friends. Till this day I make cookies and Lasagna for Christmas. Thank you for sharing, Buona Natalie

Love the family story. Plan to make for a cookie exchange. Would it be okay to make the dough and refrigerate overnight? Then shape and bake the next day?