Pizzicati are delicate Italian shortbread cookies filled with jam. Sometimes called biscotti pizzicati or simply pinch cookies, the jam-filled cookies are not too sweet and beautiful on a dessert tray. 

close up of a plate of pizzicati cookies.
Photo Credits: Caitlin Bensel

Pizzicati is one of my favorite cookie recipes and for good reason. These delicate jam-filled shortbread cookies have a light texture, and a subtle sweetness.

With only a half cup of sugar in the entire recipe these Italian pinch cookies are lovely served with coffee or hot tea at the end of a meal. Although most people think of cookies as an evening snack or part of a holiday dessert tray adorned with Italian treats like biscotti and cannoli, I am not ashamed to say I have thoroughly enjoyed them at breakfast time too! 

This recipe makes about 30 to 40 cookies depending upon how thin you roll the dough. Each cookie is quite small — only about two bites each and finished with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Depending upon the size of your cookie cutter and how thin you roll the dough you may get fewer cookies. When it comes to filings, I prefer strawberry, fig or apricot jam. While I have tried pizzicati with nutella I must admit, it’s not my favorite. (I know! I’m so sorry to all the chocolate hazelnut lovers out there!) 

Regardless, of what you put inside these tender shortbread morsels, you are certain to delight your friends and family with these sweet Italian cookies. 

two pizzicati cookies on a plate with a cup of coffee.
Table of Contents
  1. What is in Pizzicati? 
  2. How to Make Pizzicati
  3. When to Enjoy Pizzicati 
  4. How to Store and Freeze Pizzicati
  5. More Sweet Treats 
  6. Try our Fig Jam!
  7. Pizzicati (Italian Pinch Cookies) Recipe
Ingredients for pizzicati cookies including flour, powdered sugar, a lemon, butter, baking powder, two eggs and strawberry jam.

What is in Pizzicati? 

I love these cookies because they are so simple and easy to make. My eleven-year-old daughter and I make these all the time. I roll and cut the dough, she fills with jam and pinches the two sides together in the middle.  

  • All purpose flour: Most people have this in their homes and makes a great shortbread dough.
  • Powdered sugar: I used powdered sugar both in the dough, and a little extra to dust the cookies for a snowy finish. 
  • Baking powder: You don’t need much for leavening agents in this recipe. The tiny bit of baking powder gives the cookies a little lift, but not too much. 
  • Lemon zest: For this recipe I used lemon zest because lemon and strawberry are one of my favorite flavor combinations. 
  • Softened butter: the dough comes together quickly using softened butter. If you forgot to soften your butter you can pop it in the microwave for about 5 seconds. 
  • Vanilla extract: If you want to swap out the vanilla extract for almond extract or another flavor go right head! 
  • Eggs: are used to provide a structure to the dough. 
  • Strawberry jam: I love the lemon strawberry combo in this recipe, but you can swap it for another jam flavor if you’d prefer. 

How to Make Pizzicati

Italian pinch cookies really are easy to make, but like any roll out cookie you want to keep the dough chilled. If your dough gets too warm it might stick to the counter or make it difficult to roll out. You also want to roll the dough thin (about the height of 2 stacked quarters).

  • Mix dry ingredients: In a large bowl combine the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine. 

    dry ingredients for pizzicati being mixed in a glass bowl with a whisk.
  • Add the wet ingredients: To the bowl with the dry ingredients, add softened butter, vanilla extract, and eggs. Using a hand mixer, beat on low just until the flour is a little wet, then increase the speed to medium until the dough becomes a loose grainy mixture. Take a rubber spatula and scoop around the bowl. Then knead with the spatula for a minute or so just until you have a slightly sticky, cohesive dough. 

    the pizzicati dough being mixed in a bowl with a hand mixer.
  • Wrap the dough and chill: Transfer the cohesive dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a 1-inch thick disk. Place it in the fridge to chill for one hour. 
  • Roll out the cookie dough: Dust a countertop with flour, and roll out the dough into a disk that is less than ¼-inch thick. You want the dough thin. If it's too thick the pinch might not hold. Use a 2 ½ -inch biscuit or cookie cutter and cut out as many circles as you can. Transfer the circles to a baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used up. 
  • Fill and pinch the cookies: Place a scant teaspoon of jam in the center of each circle. Then lift the sides, pinch just center together about 3 finger tips wide but leave each end open. Fold the pinched section down to the left or right side of the cookie. 

    The cookies will not spread. As you pinch them move them so the pinched cookies are only about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. I can get 20 pinched cookies on a single baking sheet. 

    nine unbaked pizzicati cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake the cookies: Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake in a 350°F oven for 12-14 minutes. The bottoms will be lightly golden, the jam will spread to the open ends, but the cookies will still be pale and will not take on much color. 
  • Cool and dust the cookies: When the cookies are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Then dust with powdered sugar and serve. 

When to Enjoy Pizzicati 

I’m pretty sure I’ve never struggled to find a way to enjoy a shortbread cookie let alone one filled with jam! But if you need some ideas I have a few for you.

Don’t relegate pizzicati to a simple Christmas cookie placed on a dessert table along with other after dinner bites like Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake, Chocolate Covered Dates and Brownies. Make these cookies for a bridal shower, Sunday brunch, baby shower or a Mother’s Day spread. Get the coffee ready! 

And now that you are a filled-cookie expert, be sure to check out this ma'amoul recipe. Another scrumptious cookie with a date filling.

two pizzicati cookies on a plate with a cup of coffee.

How to Store and Freeze Pizzicati

If you’re anything like me, you like to get a head of a big gatherings. If you’re in that camp, then you’re in luck. Make a batch of cookies. Bake them off, let them cool, then pop them in the freezer.

To store: Simply layer the cooked pinch cookies between sheets of parchment, place them in an airtight container in the freezer. When ready transfer then to your serving platter and dust with a little powdered sugar.

More Sweet Treats 

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Try our Fig Jam!

This traditional Fig Jam is made from Greek Figs, plump little flavor bombs of honeyed delight! Another great option for filling your pizzicati cookies!

a jar of fig jam from the mediterranean dish.
4.73 from 11 votes

Pizzicati (Italian Pinch Cookies)

Summer Miller
close up of a plate of pizzicati cookies.
These delicate jam-filled shortbread cookies are so simple and easy to make. With a light texture and subtle sweetness, they pair perfectly with some coffee or hot tea at the end of a meal.
Prep – 15 mins
Cook – 12 mins
Chill Time 1 hr
Total – 1 hr 27 mins
Cuisine:
Italian
Serves – 40 cookies
Course:
Dessert

Equipment

  • 2 ½-inch circular biscuit or cookie cutter

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups (270 g) all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (60 g) of powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 10 tablespoons (140g) butter, very soft
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • cup strawberry jam

Instructions
 

  • Mix dry ingredients: In a large bowl combine the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine.
  • Add the wet ingredients: To the bowl with the dry ingredients, add softened butter, vanilla extract, and eggs. Using a hand mixer, beat on low just until the flour is a little wet, then increase the speed to medium until the dough becomes a loose grainy mixture, about 3 to 4 minutes. Take a rubber spatula and scoop around the bowl then knead with the spatula (or your hands) for a minute or so just until you have a slightly sticky, cohesive dough.
  • Wrap the dough and chill: Transfer the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a 1-inch thick disk. Place it in the fridge to chill for one hour.
  • Roll out the cookie dough: Dust a countertop with flour, and roll out the dough into a disk that is less than ¼ inch thick (about the height of 2 quarters stacked on top of each other). Use a 2 ½ -inch biscuit or cookie cutter and cut out as many circles as you can. Transfer the circles to a baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
  • Fill and pinch the cookies: Place a scant teaspoon of jam in the center of each circle. Then lift the sides, pinch the tops together about three finger tips wide across the top, but leave the ends open. Fold the pinched side down to the left or right side of the cookie.
    The cookies will not spread, so as you pinch them you can move them so the pinched cookies are only about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. I can get 20 pinched cookies on a single baking sheet.
  • Bake the cookies: Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake in a 350°F oven for 12-14 minutes. The bottoms will be lightly golden, the jam will spread to the open ends, but the cookies will still be pale and don’t take on much color.
  • Cool and dust the cookies: When the cookies are ready remove them from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Then dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams and spices.
  • I like to use strawberry jam in these cookies but fig jam from our shop is just as delicious.
  • If the dough is challenging to roll out at any point it’s probably just too hot. Go ahead and transfer the dough to the refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool down then start again.
  • I used a 2 ½ inch cookie cutter to get 40 cookies. If you roll the dough too thick, or use a different sized cookie cutter you could make more or less cookies.
  • It's important to roll the dough thin. If it's too thick the pinch might not old and they could pop open. 
  • You can also make these cookies in a food processor. Just add the dry ingredients and pulse until they come together. Then add the egg, extract and butter and pulse until it forms a ball. You may have to scrape down the sides. 

Nutrition

Calories: 64.8kcalCarbohydrates: 8.3gProtein: 1gFat: 3.1gSaturated Fat: 1.9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.8gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 15.7mgSodium: 32mgPotassium: 12.9mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 2.9gVitamin A: 99.4IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 6.5mgIron: 0.3mg
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Summer Miller is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and an IACP finalist in essay writing and memoir. Her recipes, food writing, and editing chops span both print and digital media. You can find her work at Simply Recipes, Eating Well, Saveur, Bon Appétit, and the Kitchn among others. She is the Senior Executive Editor at The Mediterranean Dish.
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! After about 8 cookies I got the pinching down right. I only got 28 cookies though with a 2 1/4 in cutter. No problem..I'm making another batch right now! They won't go to waste.

  2. I plan on making these cookies before Christmas…. The recipe says butter .. so should it be unsalted or salted butter ??

  3. They tasted delicious but none of mine stayed pinched/folded. How do you get the edges to stay together through the baking process?

    1. Hi, Willie! I'm Summer, I wrote the recipe, I'm glad they taste great let's see if we can figure out why they aren't staying pinched. How many cookies did you get out of the dough? If you didn't get close to 40 then you probably rolled the dough a little thick and that could lead to popping the pinch. When you roll out the dough you want it to be about the thickness of two quarters stacked on top of each other. Did you put a little too much jam in them by any chance? You only want about 3/4 teaspoon of jam. You also want to make sure when you pinch the cookies that you pinch them low enough and wide enough to fold a flap over on one side or the other (while keeping just the ends open). If the pinch isn't deep enough it might pop open. I hope this helps!

  4. I made two batches since the first did not turn out like your photo. All the cookies open up as they were baking. None stayed punched together at the center. What did I do wrong? 😞Your cookies looked beautiful and mine were flatten or spread apart.

    1. Hi, Carol! I'm so sorry to hear that. The pinching technique with these can take a minute to figure out. My guess is if the pinch is coming unsealed you're probably rolling the dough a little too thick. It should be about thickness of two quarters stacked on top of each other. When you pinch them in the middle pinch it in a couple of places in the center -- like two fingertips of width, and pinch them low enough so you can fold a little flap of the cookie over. I hope that helps!

  5. 2 stars
    They don't stay pinched during baking. I went back and wet fingers a pit to get a good seal- this did not help. Dissapointing cuz they taste fantastic w rasberry jam, but not something you'd gift. Curious why all reviews posted are five star.

    1. Hi, Teresa!
      I'm so sorry to hear that. The pinching technique with these can take a minute to figure out. My guess is if the pinch is coming unsealed you're probably rolling the dough a little too thick. It should be about thickness of two quarters stacked on top of each other. When you pinch them in the middle pinch it in a couple of places in the center -- like two fingertips of width, and pinch them low enough so you can fold a little flap of the cookie over. I hope this helps.

  6. 5 stars
    Another variation would be to use Fiori di Sicilia instead of lemon juice. Essential (1:2 lemon oil to vanilla extract). Less acidity, similar flavor profile.

    1. Oh, no! Some people find that dipping their fingers in a bit of water before pinching helps them to stay sealed during baking. So, maybe give that a try next time?

  7. My (Italian) mom used to make these every year. I was just thinking about them yesterday as I was planning out the Christmas cookies I'll make with my grandchildren when I arrive next week 🙂 Unfortunately my mom has passed, and I never got her recipe. I'm so excited for the timing of your email with this recipe, and to be able to make these cookies to keep the tradition going. Thank you!

    1. Hi, KT -- Thank you for sharing such a sweet story. I hope this recipe lives up to the one your mother made. Glad we could be small part in continuing holiday traditions with your family.