This snowflake-shaped cookie has a colorful history and an important place on the holiday cookie table.
Although I’m not Italian by blood, making pizzelles at Christmas has always been a part of my family’s holiday. My mom and I make them now, but before us, it was my grandma and her sisters. It’s comforting to know we have a few spare hand-me-down waffle irons with the quintessential pizzelle pattern ready to be used, along with a healthy stack of tin cans saved throughout the year to use for gifting these cookies to friends and family.
Did you know pizzelles are the OLDEST known cookie? Originating around the 8th century in the Italian region of Abruzzo, they were made as a celebratory biscuit during the “Festival of the Snakes” also known as the “Feast Day of San Domenico,” which honors the monk who cleared the snakes from the fields in their local village. Pizzelles were even a part of the procession!
As if we needed yet another reason to cherish this cookie, the name pizzelle actually originated from the word for pizza. “Pizze” comes from the Italian word for “round” and “flat”. The suffix “elle” signifies the “smallness” part.
Most waffle irons we use today are engrained with a typical snowflake pattern, but historically, pizzelle irons would have the unique crest of the family who made them. These were then passed down through the generations.
The simplest recipes are always the best. Sugar, eggs, flour, butter or oil, and anise oil is all you need to make pizzelles. The magic comes in the iron. The reason I personally love making these cookies is the satisfaction I feel when opening the iron and seeing the special imprint and smelling the the waft of anise. As we all know, the best recipes are always handwritten. I’m glad to share the recipe my mom and I follow, which was given to us by an Italian family.