What is a Mostaccioli Cookie?
Mostaccioli Cookies with Vino Cotto (Mustacciuoli Napoletani) are sweet, soft Italian cookies made with cocoa and honey, then covered in rich, dark chocolate.
Mustaccioli typically takes the form of a parallelogram, and is known for this diamond or rhombus shape.
There is a debate on consistency: there are regional recipes that produce a soft cookie and those that make them very crunchy.
Italian Christmas Cookies
In Italy, these glazed biscuits are traditionally Christmas sweets but are commonly eaten throughout the year.
See the Cookies Prepared on YouTube:
Mostaccioli Recipes Vary by Region
These cookies are common all around Italy, particularly the regions of Southern Italy. There seem to be as many Mostaccioli cookie recipes as there are regions in Italy and it is difficult to find a recipe that everyone agrees on.
The differences are many, including the presence of cooked must, almonds, or the use of coffee instead of water in the dough, and whether or not to add the chocolate glaze.
This recipe, for example, uses mosto cotto (vino cotto, vincotto, saba, sapa). It is a grape must syrup that is often aged up to 24 months. Feel free to substitute honey in it’s place. You can learn more here.
- A characteristic of the Neapolitan mostaccioli is to include the Neapolitan pisto, which is a mix of spices made with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
- In Avigliano there are glazed taralli, flavored with anise, called mustazzuol or mstazzuol.
- There is an old recipe in Marsica for a dessert called Murzitti. These have the same rhomboid shape but are not covered with chocolate glaze. They are characterized by the filling of walnuts, almonds, raisins, and dried figs.
- Among the regional variants, those of Benevento, and of the whole Sannio, include the addition of Strega liqueur into the dough.
- The Neapolitan mustaccioli seem to be a distant relative of the German aachener printen.
More recently, many variations of mostaccioli have been created, in which the chocolate glaze is replaced by a white chocolate glaze or a sugar and candied glaze.
A Cookie by Any Other Name
When researching recipes for these sweet, Italian treats, I was surprised by how many variations on the name I found.
I searched for Mostaccioli cookies and also found names for similar deserts called:
- Mustacciuoli Napoletani
- zozzi (Translated as “filthy” or “dirty” due to the chocolate glaze on the surface.)
- tarallo aviglianese
History of Mostaccioli
Mostaccioli cookies are very ancient sweets. However, there is almost as much debate on the history of the mostaccioli as there are variations in the recipe.
- Some derive it from the Latin ”mustum”, linked to the use in ancient peasant recipes of the must, used as a sweetener.
- Others cite the origin from ”mustax”, ie laurel.
- Another origin could be from the ancient Greek ”mástax”, which means morsels.
- Many say the Mostaccioli dates back to the period of Ancient Rome. The Latin “mustaceum”, is a sweet focaccia prepared with grape must and cooked on bay leaves.
- Historical Latin writings describe “mustacei”. These small, sweet buns were made of flour, must and anise.
- In late medieval times there was “mostazoli”, biscuits based on cooked must whose suffix ”oli” suggests that we have gone from the larger form of Roman focaccia to smaller sweets.
- The Salento mustazzoli are famous sweets widespread in particular in the province of Lecce, but their origins are said to be Arab.
Enjoy these Mostaccoili the same as you would with any cookie or sweet treat.
- As a tasty, afternoon snack with a cup of tea
- In the morning with a cup of milk or coffee
- And of course, the dark chocolate pairs well with an evening glass of wine
Another excellent dessert made with olive oil is our Orange and Olive Oil Cake.
Mostaccioli Cookies (Mustacciuoli Napoletani)
- 5 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
- 3 tbsp Baking Powder
- ½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- ¾ tsp Cinnamon Powder
- 1 ⅓ cups Almonds
- 3 Eggs
- 1 ⅓ cups Sugar
- ⅓ cup Honey
- ⅓ cup Mosto Cotto
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ⅓ cup Cold Coffee
- 1 Orange, Zest Only
- 23 oz Dark Chocolate, 70%
Toast the Almonds
- Gently toast the whole almonds in a 350F oven for 7-8 minutes
- Remove from oven and finely chop
Preheat the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 400F
Mix the Dry Ingredients
- In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and almonds
Mix the Wet Ingredients
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.
- Add the sugar, honey, mosto cotto, olive oil, coffee, and orange zest.
- Continue mixing until well combined.
- Slowly add the flour mixture until combined.
Knead and Roll the Dough
- Put the dough on a flat surface with a little flour, then knead it with your hands for a few minutes to form a ball. This will be a soft dough.
- Separate a small piece of dough (about one large handful) and roll it into a ball.
- Transfer to a floured surface and flatten with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4-1/2” (0.6-1.3cm) thick.
Cut and Bake the Cookies
- Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 2” (2.5cm) strips at an angle, to form diamond shapes. You can also use a diamond cookie cutter.
- Put the cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 5 minutes. The cookies will appear puffy and soft.
- Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely.
Cover in Chocolate
- Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler with a few drops of olive oil.
- Dip the cookies in the chocolate using tongs or a spoon and place them on parchment paper to cool. Alternately, you can place the cookies on a wire rack and drizzle melted chocolate over the top.