Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes per batch
Makes about 80 cookies
These Italian cookies are tender and cakelike, thanks to the ricotta, but not at all cheesy. They're moist, so don't store them with other kinds of treats. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; it can easily be halved.
You can tint the glaze any color or leave it plain, which is traditional. Don't store the frosted cookies in an airtight container; the moistness of the cookies will cause the glaze to run.
The batter can be made a day in advance, covered with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface, and refrigerated. The cookies can be stored in a non-airtight container for 2 weeks.
Adapted by the Washington Post from a recipe by Alba Johnson, a cooking instructor, cookbook author and personal chef in Shady Side, Md.
For the cookies:
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups flour
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly grated zest of 2 medium lemons
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, or more to taste
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
Food coloring (optional)
Colored sugar sprinkles, for garnish (optional)
For the cookies: Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the salt, baking soda and flour in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Add the cheese, eggs, lemon zest and rosemary; beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix well. The dough should be slightly moist.
Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake about 10 minutes or until firm, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. The cookies should be golden on the bottom but remain white on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat to use all of the batter.
For the glaze: Place the confectioner's sugar in a medium bowl and stir in enough lemon juice to make a thick paste. Add the food coloring of your choice, if using, and stir to blend. Thin with enough additional lemon juice to create a glaze that can be brushed onto the cookies. Lightly coat or drizzle the top of each cookie with the glaze and add sprinkles or other decorations, if desired.
Allow frosting to dry completely before storing, loosely covered, for up to 2 weeks.
Per serving: 80 calories, 1 g protein, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 30 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar