Cuccidati Are the Colourful Italian Christmas Cookies You’ve Been Missing

Cuccidati Are the Colourful Italian Christmas Cookies You’ve Been Missing

I believe there’s room on the table for all the cookies during December. Sure, we have our must-bakes—mine are gingerbread cookies and these nameless, cherry-spiked butter cookies—but you should leave room for some new names. This year, I recommend a classic Italian cookie called cuccidati. Maybe your grandparents made them a long time ago or perhaps they’re completely new; regardless, these fruity cookies deserve a spot in your yearly lineup. 

I can confidently say Italians have a great eye for cookies. Biscotti, amaretti, pignoli, and rainbow cookies are superstars, just to name a few. Cuccidati, or bucellati, are classic Sicilian Christmas cookies. Even if you’ve never had one, I’m guessing it might look awfully familiar. Fig Newtons are similar to these homemade treats, though not necessarily based on them. Soft, buttery cookie dough wraps around a figgy fruit centre, and the cookies are topped with sweet icing and colourful sprinkles. 

Nearly anything with rainbow nonpareils catches my interest, and I’m glad these did. While they’re not as easy as drop cookies, like chocolate chip or oatmeal, the dough and filling can be made quickly in a food processor. These fruit-filled cookies make a great addition to any Christmas cookie tin you’re delivering to friends, and eating them is way more satisfying than the usual sugar cookie. 

How to make cuccidati

1. Load a regular blade into your food processor. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse the mixture two or three times to mix them up. Add the butter in tablespoon-sized chunks, and pulse the mixture about 10 times, or until the butter pieces are the size of peas. Add the extract and one cold egg. I used almond extract but vanilla extract is great too. Turn the food processor on until the dough comes together, about 20 seconds. The dough should be soft and easily come out of the food processor. Put it in a bowl, cover it, and set it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Cookie dough in a bowl.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

2. Put the blade back into the food processor. The dough should have collected nearly all of the ingredients so there’s no need to wash anything out. Add the figs, nuts, and raisins to the food processor and blend it until everything is about the same size. This takes 30 seconds to a minute to do. Check on it every 15 seconds or so to see how it’s coming along. Add the marmalade, brandy, and orange zest, and blend it all again until the mixture becomes a paste. If you don’t have brandy, you can use marsala wine, another sweet wine, or skip the alcohol and use a juice. Unload the filling into a small bowl.

Fig paste in a bowl.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

3. To shape the cookies, dust your work surface with flour. Be generous with the flour because the dough is a little sticky. You can divide the dough into two halves first, which might be easier than rolling it all out at once like I did. Either way, gather the portion of dough into a rectangular shape on the flour, then roll it out a quarter-inch thick. I rolled my dough out to be six inches wide and 20 inches long. I ended up with excess dough on the side—which I used later, so no big deal—but if you work in two instalments of dough, you’ll avoid the excess. Just roll it out to be about four inches wide and 10 inches long. 

Rectangle of dough on a cutting board.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

4. Then I used a spoon to dollop filling along the left side, and the full length of the dough. Wet your fingertips to pat the fig filling down so it’s a little flatter. You may have extra filling. Fold the left edge of the pastry up the side of the filling, then continue to fold the two of them up and over to wrap the filling in pastry. I had an inch and a half or so excess on the edges, so I trimmed that off and used the rest of my filling to make more cookies. 

Hand putting filling on dough.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

5. Use a sharp knife to trim the very edge off of the ends and then slice the cookies to make them about an inch wide. Line the cookies up on a parchment lined baking sheet about an inch apart, and bake them in a 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the bottom starts to brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

Fig filled cookies on a sheet tray.
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

6. Make a simple royal icing with powdered sugar and a little bit of egg white. The egg white dries hard, so you end up with a thin, crackly topping that doesn’t smear or squish after it dries. I love this stuff if I’m shipping cookies. You can use raw egg white but if you’re worried about any food borne illnesses, use carton egg whites, which are just as good and are pasteurized. Mix the two together until it’s a thick frosting. It should be spreadable but not runny. 

I used a pastry brush to apply the frosting to each cookie, but you can use a spoon or try to dip the cookies in the icing. Sprinkle the rainbow nonpareils on after the icing for each cookie. Royal icing begins to form a skin immediately so you can’t ice all of the cookies first and go back to sprinkle; you have to do each one right away. 

These Christmastime favorites are soft and buttery with an earthy, caramel-tinged flavor in the figgy center. Store them at room temperature in a covered container for up to a week. 

Cuccidati recipe 

What you’ll need:

For the dough:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, cold 
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (or substitute vanilla extract)
  • 1 egg, cold

For the filling:

  • 7 ounces dried figs (about 1 heaping cup)
  • ¼ cup walnuts or almonds
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup orange marmalade or other jam
  • 2 tablespoons fortified wine or brandy (or substitute apple cider, orange juice)
  • Zest of 1 small orange

For the royal icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons egg white
  • Sprinkles for decorating


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

2. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a food processor bowl and pulse a few times. Add the butter in tablespoon-sized chunks and blend until the butter becomes the size of peas. Add the egg and extract and blend until a unified dough forms. Dump the dough into a bowl, cover it and set it aside in the fridge.

3. No need to clean the food processor; just pop the blade back in and load it up with the figs, nuts, and raisins. Blend it until the ingredients are quite small and are all about the same size. Add the marmalade, alcohol or juice, and orange zest. Blend until the mixture becomes a paste.  

4. Flour a work surface generously. Divide the dough in half and press it into a rectangle shape. Roll the dough out into a quarter-inch thick rectangle four inches wide and 10 inches long. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the fruit filling onto the pastry, along the entire length. Pat the filling down flat with damp fingers.

5. Roll the filling over the pastry and make sure the dough connects on the seam. Trim the edges, then cut the log into one-inch segments. Line up the cookies on the baking sheet about an inch apart. Repeat this with the other half of the dough and filling. 

6. Bake at 375°F for 12-15 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

7. To make the icing, stir the powdered sugar and egg white together until combined into a thick frosting. Dip the cookies, or use a pastry brush to swipe some onto the top of each cookie. Working one at a time, add icing and add sprinkles. Allow the cookies to dry for a few hours before packing into cookie tins.

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