Canestrelli, Italian Shortbread Cookies

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5 from 6 reviews

Canestrelli, Italian Shortbread Cookies are deliciously crumbly and traditional of the Liguria Region. They have a characteristic flower shape with a hole in the center and a surprise ingredient in the dough. Canestrelli are generously dusted with powdered sugar and they are perfect with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

Recipe adapted from: Dolci Progetti


  • 130 g flour 00 (or all-purpose)
  • 70 g potato starch (or potato flour)
  • 70 g icing (powdered) sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
  • 1 organic lemon, the zest
  • 100 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 3 yolks from hardboiled eggs


  1. Place eggs in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring it to a boil and cook for 8-9 minutes. Place them under cold water, remove the shell, let them cool completely then take out the yolks and mash with a fork. (I used the hard-boiled whites in a salad).
  2. Sift flour, potato starch, and icing sugar into a bowl. Add salt and vanilla (bean seeds, paste, or powder), mixing well with a whisk.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces and mix with the flour using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, until you obtain a crumbly mixture.
  4. With a fine grater add the lemon zest (try not to grate the white part that would give a bitter aftertaste).
  5. Using a spoon, press the hard-boiled egg yolks through a sieve directly into the bowl.
  6. Work the dough with your hands until smooth. In the beginning, it seems like it's dry and it won't come together, but it will. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour (I let it rest for 3 hours).
  7. Pre-heat oven to 335° (170° C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge, and let it come to room temperature so it's easier to roll out without crumbling. I divided the dough in two and worked a piece at a time.
  9. Roll out the dough to a 5-mm thickness and cut the Canestrelli with the flower-shaped cookie cutter (with at least 6 petals). Make a hole in the center of each cookie using a medium piping nozzle. Knead again the leftover dough and repeat the operation to make more cookies.
  10. Transfer the Canestrelli onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 16/18 minutes or until cooked but still very pale. I baked one baking sheet at a time.
  11. Remove and leave to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet on a wire rack.  When completely cool, dust the tops generously with icing sugar.


The cooking time does not include the boiling of the eggs.

You can make the dough in a food processor or stand mixer.

The prep time includes the resting of the dough in the fridge for 3 hours.

They keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container (I put them in a tin box with the lid), although I don't think they will last that long.

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