Italian Clove Cookies

Italian Clove Cookies

Allow me to share a story…

My parents host our family Thanksgiving. I’m not sure how it came to be, but my participation includes going home the day before to help my mom prepare the food and get the house ready for guests. She says I get to be her “special helper.” I tell her it’s not that special, but I show up every year anyway. Last year I wanted to make my mom her favorite cookies, Italian Clove Cookies. I had never made them before, so I didn’t know that the dough is very thick and that her recipe would call for an awful lot of it. Long story short, I broke her hand mixer and she didn’t get any cookies. Oops.

Fast forward to this past weekend, which I had planned on spending with my parents at their new house. Armed with my stand mixer, capable of mixing any dough, I finally made my mom a batch of the cookies as a housewarming gift.

She loved them, and I hope that puts to rest the occasional “I don’t know what you did to my mixer Aimee, but you definitely broke it.” Have another cookie, Mom! I love you, Mom! The recipe for these Italian Clove Cookies is “Lena’s Cookies.”  Lena was a neighbor of my mom’s growing up in Peabody, MA.

italian clove cookies

On sight you expect these cookies to taste like chocolate, but instead you get a spicy combination of cocoa, cinnamon, and cloves.  It’s no surprise that many people associate these cookies with the Christmas season – they have that warm Christmassy aroma. They are also sometimes called Italian Meatball Cookies, which I ignore for obvious reasons. Put them on your cookie “must-make” list!

Italian Clove Cookies
Adapted from Lena

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (plus more for garnish)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Frosting Ingredients
2 cups confectionary sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa
3-4 tsp. water
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, cocoa, cloves, and cinnamon.
  • In a large bowl (preferably using a stand mixer) mix together sugar, oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture to wet mixture in small batches and mix until combined.  Dough will be very stiff.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.
  • Break off pieces of dough and roll into balls the size of walnuts.  Arrange on baking sheet with a few inches between, and bake for 10 minutes, or until set.
  • Once cool, spread the top with frosting and garnish with a few additional chopped walnuts.  Allow frosting to harden before stacking.

Yield:  40-50 cookies.

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17 thoughts on “Italian Clove Cookies

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Chocolate and clove sounds wonderful! Funny that they’re referred to as meatball cookies. In Italy I learned to make a dessert called salami dolce, “sweet salami” because they looked like salami.

  2. Hannah says:

    Yesssssss!!!!!!! I am a clove FREAK. My husband hates it because I put nutmeg and cloves in just about everything (nutmeg in pumpkin soup I discovered from my soup Bible–om nom nom). I make a wonderful spiced hot chocolate that overwhelms his tender tastebuds with the explosion of awesome.

    So I would probably get these cookies all to myself. These look amazing and I can already smell them–haha! I can’t wait to make these. Thank you Aimee, and thank you Lena!

  3. Jill says:

    I am going to try and make these gluten free. I’ll let you know the results! I love cloves, so I am super excited to see if I like the chocolote-clove taste sensation.

  4. judy hogan says:

    I have burned up many a mixer on these,finally got a stand mixer also 🙂 i use strong hot coffee instead of water in icing,adds a little xtra to them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lena must have been a friend of my moms as well. We are also from Peabody. My mom made these every holiday for us and now I do too.

  6. Cathy says:

    Your recipes are making me so happy! They remind me of when I lived in Medford Ma and my Auntie Carol would bake these at Christmas! Thank you so much!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I grew up eating my grandmother’s cookies during the holidays. The depth of the chocolate color is very misleading. The cookies are actually very light in color and the listed ingredients bear that out so don’t be disappointed when they come out lighter.

    • Aimee says:

      Hi Anonymous. I may have used a darker cocoa when making this batch (I am frequently fond of King Arthur Flour’s Double Dutch Cocoa, which has a wonderful, intense flavor). Using a lighter cocoa powder will likely yield a lighter cookie — some of my batches have been more “milk chocolate” colored over the years — but they certainly still tasted good. Thanks for your comment!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m not gonna lie. I made these and they weren’t good. My recipe was weirdly chewy for the type of cookie. I think there might be a typo, or I did something wrong. I love the concept, though.

    • Aimee says:

      Hi there. I am sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy the cookies. I have made this recipe countless times and they always come our just the way my family likes them. I hope you find a version of the Italian Cocoa-Clove Cookie that’s more to your liking!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been making your recipe for the last 4 years. My late mother in law used to make these cookies. We all helped and we all missed them when she was gone. So glad I found your recipe needless to say it’s a family favorite and they always bring back such fond memories. Thank you

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