If you’re Italian, or have ever attended an Italian event such as a wedding, church function or Christmas dinner at your friend’s nonna’s house, you have probably encountered pizzelle before.
Pizzelle (pronounced like pizza, but with an elle at the end instead) are thin, wafer-like Italian cookies made from eggs, sugar, flour, oil and anise flavouring. They’re subtly sweet with a pleasant licorice flavour that is particularly enjoyable after a big meal.
Pizzelle originate from the Abruzzo region of Italy, where my ancestors came from, so it is no surprise that my family has been making pizzelle for generations – especially around Christmastime. My siblings and I would even hang pizzelle on our Christmas tree like ornaments, though I’m not sure if this is traditional or just something we did for fun.
The thing I enjoy most about Italian desserts is that they’re not too sweet. Ever have a slice of chocolate cake that’s so sickly sweet it hurts your teeth? This isn’t the case with Italian desserts. Many of the classic recipes (including pizzelle) are only slightly sweet with hints of herb or spice notes depending on the recipe.
You need a special iron, similar to a waffle iron, to make pizzelle. It’s quite a time consuming activity since the iron makes just two at a time, and each pair takes about 30 seconds to cook. To put it into perspective, I was able to watch Home Alone 2 in its entirety while making this batch! The long cooking time is probably why pizzelle are served on special occasions rather than as an everyday treat.
You can eat pizzelle as is, which I prefer, or turn them into sandwiches by spreading some sweetened ricotta cheese and/or nutella in between two pizzelle. Sometimes I make a few tube-shaped ones by rolling them around a wooden spoon before they cool. They’re great stuffed with whipped cream and berries.
This recipe makes about 100 pizzelle, which is rather a lot for our household of two! Rather than halve the recipe, I make a full batch each year and bring them to family and friends during the holidays.
Here’s a video I shot last Christmas showing how it’s done:
- 12 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup canola oil
- 2 tsp anisette
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Beat eggs, sugar, oil and anisette together. Add flour gradually. Spoon roughly a tbsp of batter and bake on the pizzelle iron according to instructions on the iron box.
- You need a special pizzelle iron to make these cookies. It is similar to a waffle iron but produces a much thinner final product. Mine is an Aurora brand electric version that makes two pizzelle at a time.