Reginelle cookies, also known as Regina cookies, are classic Italian cookies that can be found in nearly every Italian bakery in the New York metro area. They're loaded with sesame seeds and their crunchy biscuit-like texture makes them the perfect accompaniment to coffee or espresso. These cookies are perfect for holiday cookie platters, but are good enough to make all year long!
Regina cookies, also known as reginelle or biscotti di sesamo, have a special place in my heart.
These were and still are my dad's favorite cookies and every time I eat one I'm reminded that sometimes the simplest things in life are the best.
There's nothing flashy about reginelle - no bright colors or sprinkles - but that's what makes them stand out.
The wonderful flavor from the toasty sesame seeds pairs perfectly with the crunchy texture and hint of lemon zest.
These cookies are perfect with a cup of coffee, or espresso, and are a welcome addition to any holiday cookie platter.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- In a large bowl combine 2 cups (240g) of all-purpose flour, ½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix until combined. Using a pastry cutter, or your hands, mix in ½ cup (113g) of cubed, room-temperature butter, and mix until a coarse meal is formed.
- Add 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and mix until evenly distributed.
- Add 1 large beaten room-temperature egg and mix with a fork until a dough is formed. The dough will be crumbly.
- Using your hands, shape the dough into a ball. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk to help bring it together.
- Once the dough ball is formed, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 350f, line two baking sheets with parchment paper, spread 1 cup (142g) of raw sesame seeds onto a plate, and pour ¼ cup (57g) of milk into a shallow bowl. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces and using your hands, roll and shape each piece into a ½-inch thick rope.
- Cut the rope into 2-inch long pieces (I used the last two digits of my finger as a rough measurement).
- Lightly dip each piece into the milk, and then into the sesame seeds until coated on all sides.
- Place the reginelle cookies onto the prepared lined baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, the cookies should be golden and can be removed from the oven. Allow them to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
Top tips for perfect reginelle (biscotti al sesamo)
- The sesame seeds. I used raw, hulled, unsalted sesame seeds for this recipe. The sesame seeds do not need to be toasted ahead of time since they are being baked.
- Room temperature ingredients. For this particular recipe, we recommend using room-temperature butter and egg as it will help the dough to come together more readily.
- The dough. I made the dough by hand but if you have a food processor, you can certainly use that to make the regina cookie dough. Once the dough has been removed from the fridge and you're ready to work it, you should be able to use your hands to shape the dough into ropes. The cookies don't need to be perfect in size, but I did use the top two segments of my ring finger as a measurement so each cookie was roughly equal in length.
- Lemon zest. I love the little bit of brightness the lemon zest brings to the reginelle but you can omit that if you prefer. I've seen people add anise extract to the cookies and that would also go nicely with the flavor of these cookies.
More Italian sweet treats
If you love Italian cookies and treats as much as we do, we think you'll love these other desserts!
- Pignoli cookies - 4-ingredient cookie that's soft and chewy on the inside and studded with pignoli on the outside.
- Cannoli - crispy Italian pastry shell filled with cream and topped with chocolate chips, pistachios, or orange peel.
- Almond biscotti - chocolate-dipped biscotti loaded with almonds.
- Lemon ricotta cookies - light and airy lemon-flavored cookies topped with a creamy glaze and sprinkles.
If you’ve enjoyed this reginelle cookie recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.
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- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter cubed and at room temperature
- 1 large egg beaten, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest optional
- ¼ cup (57g) milk plus more for the dough, if needed
- 1 cup (142g) raw sesame seeds
- In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder and mix until combined.
- Using a pastry cutter or your hands, mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add the beaten egg and lemon zest and mix until the dough is formed. It will be crumbly. Using your hands, shape the dough into a ball. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon of milk. Once the dough ball is formed, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350f and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. While the dough is resting, spread the sesame seeds out onto a plate and pour the milk into a shallow bowl.
- Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a ½-inch thick rope.
- Cut the log into 2-inch long pieces, then lightly dip in the milk and roll in the sesame seeds until coated.
- Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart and bake for 30 minutes until golden.
- Allow the reginelle to cool completely before serving. Enjoy!
- If when you're forming the dough you find it's too dry, add a touch of milk to help bring it together.
- Reginelle cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 weeks.
- This recipe was written for a conventional oven. For convection ovens, reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and begin checking for doneness at the 75% mark.
This is a great cookie love it
Thanks for the comment, Georgina!
How much almond extract would you use?
Hi Margaret, I've not tested this recipe with almond extract, but if you were going to add it I'd say 1/2 teaspoon.
I added 1.5 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp almond extract to replace the lemon zest.
I’ve made them several times and they were outstanding! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Hi Margaret, thanks for sharing how you tweaked to make them your own. So happy you enjoyed these and appreciate the comment!
How would you suggest shaping the Regina cookies more like the Italian bakeries do- rounded edges, oval?
Hi Michele, many bakeries do shape them into ovals but the thing I like best about these is that they're handmade and rustic which allows the person making them to take full artistic license. So shape them however you'd like!
No vanilla ?
Hi Pauline, there is no vanilla in our recipe but if you'd like to add it you definitely can.
Years ago my Mom gave me a plastic bag of the remnants of my grandmother's cookbook (spine was off, pages loose). tucked inside were many handwritten recipes - she had three different sesame seed cookies. I am going to try this one - although I may add vanilla. She had one with anise, which I know her cookie did not have Anise as I am not a huge fan, but the others had vanilla. She must have had 20 pizzelle recipes too - I asked my Mom why? She said she was always looking for the perfect Pizzelle! Her knots were the best - and she made an Anise Cookie (which I did like) with a soft chewy bottom and a crispy meringue like top.
That's a great story, Gene. Thanks for sharing! We'll have our pizzelle recipe up later this week so you'll have to let us know how it compares to your mom's recipes!
my dads favorite & one of mine too
Thanks for the comment, Annmarie. These are definitely one of our favorites!
Thank you for sharing your recipes.
Where can I buy raw sesame seeds? These look great.
Hi Elaine, most grocery stores sell sesame seeds. Thanks for the comment!
Sesame Seeds can be found sold in a bag by BOBS RED MILL.COM, , and in the Asian Food section in most grocery stores. I've seen them in small 3oz glass jars, about $2.59. Wallmart, ShopRite, Publix sell them. I prefer the BOBS RED MILL brand as they are a more econimical buy (on line) and store them in your freezer as nuts and seeds all have oils that can go rancid. I double ziploc them and they last and keep fresh. Regina biscotti are baked often in our family!! Enjoy!
Hi Jim, I will try this recipe but I discovered a flavoring from King Arthur that elevates my sesame cookies to the next level. It is Fiori di Sicilia.
I grew up on LI and when I visit NY, I go to my old bakery and buy their sesame seeds by the pound.
I keep them in the freezer till I am ready to use.
Love your recipes! Gave you 5 stars cause I know the cookies will be great!
Hi Gina, thanks for the comment! I'll definitely check out the Fiori di Sicilia - it sounds great!
Yes I use this in many Italian bakings, and its also found at Uncle Guiseppe's!! Enjoy!
Thankyou for this recipe! They are my mother's favorite so I thought I would bake some for her for Thanksgiving! They sure pass my taste test and will be enjoyed tomorrow!
Hi Paula, I'm so happy you enjoyed the cookies! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Excellent taste and texture. I could eat these all day long especially
good with coffee.
Hi Joyce, thanks for the comment and so happy you liked the recipe. I agree 100% on enjoying these with coffee!
I am going to make the Reginelle Cookies. Do you bake at 350 degrees?
We enjoy all of the recipes that we have tried so far. I feel like your approach and presentation is really excellent. Funny that you like in Ridge, we used to like not far in Manorville. Keep up the good work. Happy Holidays!
Hi Michael, we actually just made them again too! Yes, bake at 350. So happy you're enjoying the recipes and happy holidays!
Sorry James, I did not see the oven temp at bottom of recipe
Just made these and they are soooo good! I will have to make more as they will never last for our Christmas Eve gathering. Love all of your recipes, Jim. I will be making your ricotta cookies next. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
Hi Rosalie, I'm so happy you liked this recipe! They're definitely one of our favorites! Hope you enjoy the ricotta cookies as well and Merry Christmas to you!
Absolutely fantastic great recipe. I've mades these a few times now love the hint of lemon in these.
Hi Christopher, so happy you enjoyed the cookies and really appreciate the comment!