Cavallucci Senesi (Sienese Walnut Cookies)

TIMEDecember 16, 2021

Among Siena’s most traditional Christmas cookies, cavallucci are not elegant or photogenic, lacking the bright colors, icing, and sparkling sugar we expect from a Christmas cookie. Nor do they come in Christmas shapes; they’re round and rustic, lightly flattened on the ends, floury and a bit lumpy.

And yet, with that first bite full of warm spices, rich nuttiness, and sweet candied fruit, you’ll forget all about the presentation.

These were my grandfather Remigio’s favorite cookies. Every time my mum went to San Gimignano during the holidays, she returned home with a paper bag with a couple of cavallucci that Nonno had sent us.

Whenever I bake them now, I am brought back to those childhood Christmas holidays. The spiced smell lingers in the kitchen for hours, one of the most evocative aromas of Tuscan festivities.

Makes 25 cookies


  • 5 1/4 cups (650 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 ounces candied citrus peels, diced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) cavallucci spices, a mix of equal parts cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and anise
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 grams) sugar
  • 3/4 cup water



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Like a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, chopped walnuts, diced candied peels, baker’s ammonia, and spices. Mix thoroughly.

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and the water and bring to a simmer. As soon as the sugar has melted, forming a clear syrup, remove it from the heat.

Pour the sugar syrup into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. The dough will be dense and thick.

On a floured surface, shape the dough into 2-inch-thick logs, then cut them into 25 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then gently flatten them by pressing each ball with your thumb. Arrange all the cavallucci on the lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes; they will still be slightly soft to the touch. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.

You can keep the cavallucci for several days in a sealed tin or other airtight container.

Giulia Scarpaleggia is a Tuscan-born and bred food writer, food photographer, and author of five cookbooks, including “From the Markets of Tuscany.” She is currently working on her sixth cookbook. Find her online at her blog,