Italian Cookies with Orange, Rosemary and Polenta

Orange Rosemary Polenta Cookies

I love Italian cookies. In Italy, they are called biscotti (even if they’re not what we would always consider biscotti). As with all cookies, Italian biscotti (cookies) come in all shapes and sizes. The flavors can be as varied as any of the cuisine in Italy. You’d probably find everything from crisp almond cookies in the south of Italy to soft, cinnamon-spiced Venetian fritelle in the north.

Of course, Italian cookies aren’t limited to Italy. If this were New York we’d likely find vibrant, tri-colored cookies. They’re made with layers of almond paste and dyed, vaguely Italian flag style, bright red, yellow, and green. The cake-like layers are separated with apricot or raspberry (or both) jam and coated in chocolate. You probably would never find these cookies in Italy and you certainly can’t find them in Los Angeles. Still, I consider them one of my favorite Italian cookies.

LA does have Italian delis, however, and of course, they sell Italian cookies. I like a place in Glendale called Mario’s Italian Deli. They have a nice selection of Italian products. They even have a small bakery case featuring sweet Italian treats. In particular, they have a pine nut studded pignoli that is always sitting front and center of the bakery case. They also often have other varieties of Italian cookies on a rotating basis. The first time I went there I was looking for the tri-colored cookies I’d sampled in New York. Sadly the woman behind the counter told me, “We used to make them, but nobody wanted them, so we stopped.” They did however have another cookie that was dotted with pine nuts and flavored with orange zest (or was it lemon?). Either way, it was the first polenta cookie I’d ever had and it was delicious. Sadly I’ve never seen it there again. Nor have I seen the previously mentioned tri-colored beauties.

So what does one do when faced with the dilemma of not having the Italian cookies you crave? I say make up your own version. So I did. I’ll admit I mostly copied what I remembered about the cookies at Mario’s, but I added rosemary, because well… it just made sense to me.

My version may have been made up from a cookie I had in a deli in California while searching for a classic tri-colored New York treat (which is far removed from Italy, I know). But trust me, in my mind these are Italian cookies. GREG

making Italian cookies with orange, rosemary and polentaItalian cookies with orange, rosemary and polenta

Orange Rosemary Polenta Cookies 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 16Published
Orange Rosemary Polenta Cookies


  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely ground yellow polenta (or cornmeal)
  • 3 ounce toasted pine nuts (about ½ cup)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoon unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • turbinado sugar (as needed)
  • rosemary leaves (as garnish, optional)


Place the oven racks in the top and center positions and preheat oven to 350. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, pine nuts and salt. Set aside. 

In a separate large bowl use a hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange zest, orange juice and minced rosemary, mixing until incorporated. Beat in the egg until just combined. Use low speed to mix in about ⅓ of the cornmeal mixture until just combined. Repeat two more times with remaining cornmeal mixture. Do not over mix. 

Using a 2‑inch ice cream scoop drop 16 rounded mounds of dough onto 2 parchment lined baking sheets. Sprinkle each with a good amount of turbinado sugar and garnish with rosemary leaves (optional). Bake, rotating the pans between racks halfway, until just golden at the edges; 16 to 18 minutes total, depending on your oven.

Move the sheets to wire racks to cool. The cookies will keep covered about 1 week.