What makes a Holiday special? I really think it’s a mix of the present with a heavy dose of the past. Holidays like all parts of our lives should be a blend and one should not dwell too deeply in the past because much of what was there no longer is. Cooking is one of the easy areas to recreate those past memories and that is no more apparent than at the end of the year cycle of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Everything is different from the rest of the year. There are no Menorah lightings in June. Santa does not come down the chimney in May. Once a year we bring out decorations and treasured family recipes that connect us to our identities. My Holiday gift to you all at this Christmas time is my Mom’s CIAMBELLINE recipe. The proper name for this cookie is ANGINETTI and it was taught to my mom’s mother, my Grandma Maria Adelina Melito Scaramuzzi by her sister in law, my Zi’Caterina Scaramuzzi Luberto. So this story begins with a sister in law sharing a recipe from Grassano, Matera, Basilicata in Italy with her little brother’s new wife. My Luberto relatives call this cookie the GINETTE (obviously their way of saying Anginetti) but my grandmother who came from a different town in Italy tagged them with her local name for them, you see, this cookie is made all over Southern Italy and by all the immigrants and their families here in the U.S. and all over the world. My Grandmother used the term CIAMBELLINE..it’s the word for wreath, something with no beginning and no end. It’s an ancient pagan symbol of a snake biting it’s own tail, a symbol of life eternal, a symbol of the unending cycle of birth and death. Other names for this cookies are Lemon Drop, Anisette Drop, Love Knots, Taralli (that is a generic Italian word for small cookies), Orange Juice Cookies, Italian Knot Cookies, etc. The point is it’s all the same cookie but depending on where your ancestors in Italy came from the flavorings may be different. Our family’s recipe relies on Lemon, Orange, and Anisette.When buying your extracts stick with 100% pure, never imitation. READ LABELS ALWAYS!! Lots of labels fool you into thinking they are the real deal. It should be noted that while I’m writing this I’m also eating a CIAMBELLINE as well. How’s THAT for inspiration??? Now before we get started realize that this is only my way which I’m sure is somewhat modified in some way from when my Grandmother handed out this recipe to every child and grandchild. In some she used melted butter, in others the butter was creamed. My earliest recollections were of the melted so that’s my preferred method. Here is a recipe card written by my mom for her mother’s CIAMBELLINE: Give me a moment to wipe a tear away, I certainly miss my Mom and Grandmother, but what a great legacy to honor them by then to recreate every year in our own kitchens something that gave them great joy to share. Time to make CIAMBELLINE (or GIAMBIS as mom called them for short).
MAKES: about 48 depending on how big you are making them
TIME: 2 hours
8 cups SIFTED UNBLEACHED FLOUR
1 TSP. KOSHER SALT
8 tsp BAKING POWDER
3 sticks MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER
JUICE OF ONE LEMON
JUICE OF ONE ORANGE
1 cup SUGAR
7 EGGS, beaten
1/2 tsp. of ANISETTE EXTRACT
1 1/2 TSP. VANILLA EXTRACT
1 1/2 TSP. LEMON ZEST
1 1/2 TSP. ORANGE ZEST
LARGE MIXING BOWL
First mix together the beaten eggs with the Sugar till well blended. Now add the zests, the extracts, juice and blend well then do the same by adding the melted butter. Make sure it is cooled.. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Now in batches sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and gently blend into the bowl until it’s a soft, not too sticky, pliable dough. You may have to gently knead with your hands and don’t panic if it’s still a bit sticky. To get to the right consistency simply dust a little more flour into the bowl and onto your hands and only add enough until you are at a smooth dough. Then stop and let it rest for a good 15 minutes. Pull of the dough in small balls, like a golf ball size and roll into a rope then turn it into a knot. Place onto sturdy baking sheets. Remember, there’s no “set” size so no debating on this. Make that your own preference. Our family likes them a bit bigger than some other families do. CIAMBELLINE cook fairly quickly and are NOT supposed to be a dark brown. Bake for 10 minutes, check the bottom to see if it’s light brown. A good method for a first timer is to break one of the cooked ones open to see if it’s done because the tops may look “not done” to you. This is part of the practice makes perfect notion.
That’s it, that’s done. Look in the picture at how light they appear on their tops. Yet, the interior is done. The longer you cook them the harder their texture will be. If you want more color to your tops leave them in a little longer. However, in any case these are an iced cookie. When you are done with your last batch going in it’s time to make the icing glaze. HOWEVER, you need to let the cooked cookies completely cool before icing. Give at least 2 hours to be safe.
JUICE OF 2 LEMONS
JUICE OF 1/2 ORANGE
4 cups of CONFECTIONER’S SUGAR
1 TSP ANISETTE EXTRACT
1/2 TSP VANILLA EXTRACT
1/2 tsp of LEMON ZEST
1/2 TSP OF ORANGE ZEST
MIX everything together till you get a nice icing consistency. If it appears too loose, in small batches add more confectioner’s sugar. Dip the cookies on their tops into the icing and let the excess run off. Grandma Scaramuzzi suggests that you also dip the bottoms as that will encase the cookies in the icing and keep them fresh longer. I personally listen to her. Place the iced cookies on racks and top them with small CONFETTI ( multi colored Non-Pareils).
There is nothing in this world FOR ME that says it’s either Christmas, Easter, or a special occasion than the sight and smell of CIAMBELLINE in my kitchen. When storing them for later use DO NOT USE PLASTIC CONTAINERS because they will cause the iced cookies to “sweat” and the icing causes the confetti colors to run, makes them messy to hold. Instead use Cookie tins or Foil tins, using aluminum foil tight over the top.
Like the symbolism of Birth and Death between Christmas and Easter and the unending circle of Life that we all share, these cookies tie me into that natural occurrence. May you all have fun baking these cookies and thank you for letting me share them with you all.
May each one of you enjoy the Holidays…however or whatever you make them out to be…Celebrate…and Happy Cooking!
This is a wonderful recipe, thank you for sharing it with us all. It brings back such nice memories for me too of when my Grandmother used to make them. She got the recipe from her Italian neighbor Mrs. Richetelli. We knew them as Anginettis. Reading your story brought a tear to my eyes too. Happy memories!! Buon Natalie!
BUON NATALE and all the best!!!
Wow, What a heartwarming blog and a great way to remember your Mom and loved ones that are no longer with you. Thank you Peter for sharing your story with us. Merry Christmas!
From Gina, “Ginette” (LOL)
Thanks Peter..will start making them…will post when done…
Thanks Peter for the recipe, I love how they write half of bottle ???? of anisette. I use Sambuca and also wasn’t sure to melt the butter as well. thanks again cuz, I’ll be posting mine when done. I see Marie made Aunt Angie;s.. those were the days….Lougene
those were the days, and we in fact have them now with our own children, and you with yours..those hand written recipes are treasures, my mom was referring to a 1/2 bottle of the anisette extract…lol…it’s a wonderful thread that connects all of us Scaramuzzis…so proud of it and loved sharing it…can’t wait to see yours!
The cookies are mouthwatering! My mother in law makes them but her measurements were very unstable when I asked her for the details. That might have been on purpose or not. Love the photo of the recipe card, it looks like one of my mother’s old recipe cards. Thank you for the explanation on the “doneness” issue. A first timer like me might just wait until they are light brown, that is an important detail you provided us. Love all the pics and this post! I am saving this one in my personal collection.
my pleasure Darlene and thanks for all your sharing on FB! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!
You are so kind to share all of these recipes. I love to bake cookies for holidays… these will be a welcome addition!! Thanks to you and your grandmother!
enjoy…i love foods filled with tradition and memories, i know from your posts you do too!!
My all time favorite cookie. I have seen many recipes but am anxious to try your family favorite. I enjoyed reading about your family. I cook with my grandson and I hope he remembers long after I am gone as you have.
i can assure you, he will never forget, and will pass it on…enjoy!!
Beautiful memories and love these cookies! Think i will find time to make them. Grazie Peter!
so happy you liked it Susan!! if you make them, please let me know!!
I can’t wait to try this recipe. I am an avid baker and have been searching the internet for the perfect Anginetti, but none have really wowed me. I’m so happy I found your post. My grandfather was from Matera, (Vincenzo Vitale) so I knew immediately they must be good….. and what’s better than to make a cookie that has a story and actual meaning. I will post again after I make these cookies… thank you for sharing … nice to hear about our town, never really knew anyone else from Matera.
fantastic!! my grandfather’s town in Matera provincia is about 40 minutes from the town center, but i have relatives who live in MAtera also…amazing city to visit..and wonderful people and food!!
Your grandma was brilliant! I’d have never thought to COMBINE lemon, anise, orange and vanilla! I make the lemon at Easter and a special anise at Christmas, but now I have a new favorite. I just finished a batch and they are delicious! Thank you so very much for sharing. ❤ ❤️
fantastic Cristy!!! did you happen to take a picture? i was going to make a batch today then other stuff got in the way..next week I will.
Love the recipes that are passed from one generation to another. I nape to keep my recipes going from my great niece and nephew
Hi I live in France, and I’m going to have a go and bake these biscuits, lovely recipe and blog by the way
Only thing is anisette? I can’t get that here so what do you advise, the nearest I have to this is oozo alcohol or amaretto
Thanks again for sharing your lovely family memories 😊
Ouzo. No anise extract available ? Or “essence “. Oil of anise?
Hi loved reading about your family
I make these just as lemon aggnettis Never knew you can add multiple flavors !
Must try it. My receipt comes from the Soprano ‘s cookbook. It’s a laugh
But yes the dough is hard to handle but well worth it
Thanks for sharing
My grandmother made a similar cookie, she was from Abruzzo. She called them ( pronunciation: Chel-eet). She had Mulburry Trees so that was the filling. Are these similar to the Christmas Cookies?
no, there’s no filling in these, they are a dense cookie with a glaze. Love mulberries…both my Italian born grandparents had mulberry trees in their yards…..loved eating them.
Aww so glad I found this. I’ve been looking for a recipe that was like my grandmother’s. This is it. Thank you.
You made my morning with that comment!! Enjoy the cookies and the Holidays!!!
Peter, I am confused on how to shape these. Do you actually tie the dough in a knot? Your cookies look beautiful!
making them as we “speak” lol. Yes, they are a small little rope of dough tied into a knot.
Love this iconic recipe.
I also get a tear thinking of these from Nonie every Christmas. But she took the rope and and swirl it into a tight circle. All 7 of us grandkids would wait for the post office to deliver the big box that traveled from the finger lakes region of NY to our Philadelphia home. We knew it was almost Christmas. There would also be some almond nugget candies in there too
Excited to make this year. One question: Can they be made ahead and frozen?
yes BUT not iced.. frost them out of the freezer after they’ve come to room temp.