Pabassini recipe close up

Papassini recipe (Sardinian Christmas biscuits)

This biscuit is made with so many variations across the island of Sardinia, also with variations to the name depending on where you come from. With a combination of sultanas, chopped nuts, spices, citrus zest, and a glazing of icing with a scatter of hundreds and thousands, there is something magical about papassini.

Papassini recipe unglazedPapassini biscuits unglazed

Papassini recipe sprinkles

The Sardinian Cultural Association of Melbourne generously shared this papassini recipe with me and it features in their cookbook, Terra Sarda: Sardinian Home Cooking in Australia. The recipe was originally contributed by Laura Piu and Evelina Piu, from Melbourne. Accompanying the recipe in the book, Laura says: “This is a favourite recipe from my aunties from Santulussurgiu, Oristano, where my father Giovanni comes from. There are many different ways to make papassini, but I believe this is typical of the region. My mother Evelina is not Sardinian, she is from the Campania region, but she cooks many Sardinian dishes; papassini is a favourite sweet in our family, especially at Christmas time.”

Papassini, also known as pabassinas, and other variations to the biscuit’s name, are made across the island. Like the name, the biscuits, traditionally a festive / Christmas biscuit, contain some variations to the ingredients and shape. Some contain egg, orange or lemon zest – sometimes a combination of both as per this recipe, almonds or walnuts – even both, lard, butter and milk – it simply depends on family tradition or even where in Sardinian your recipe hails from. Commonly the biscuits are presented in a diamond shape, but another shaping method is vertical (as per Laura and Evelina’s recipe). In this shape – the papassini are like little standing Christmas trees with a piping of icing around the ‘tree’ like tinsel (and as per the recipe). The version pictured here are my interpretation – closer to the flat diamond shape which I mentioned earlier.  I opted for a flat triangular shape, as per the images. In some recipes or parts of Sardinia, papassini have no icing, some feature a tracing of icing along the biscuits’ edges.

If you would like to try a taste of Sardinia at Christmas, papassini are a fabulous choice and their flavour and texture will impress, not to mention the glaze and sprinkles.

Papassini recipe sprinkles close upGlazed papassini with a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands

Papassini recipe (Sardinian Christmas biscuits)

by Laura Più and Evelina Più

Makes roughly 30 biscuits/sweets (more if shaped smaller)

Biscuit ingredients

500g walnuts, chopped

600g sultanas

150g sugar

200g water

A pinch each of ground fennel, cinnamon and cloves

2 oranges, rind grated

1 lemon, rind grated

Plain flour, as much as required to bind the nuts and sultanas

Optional – 1/3 of a cup of vin cotto (wine must)

Icing ingredients (optional)

Icing sugar

Lemon juice

Hundreds and thousands* (see notes)


Place the water with the sugar in a pot and bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes

Mix the nuts, sultanas and spices together with the sugar and water mixture and then add small amounts of the flour until the ingredients bind together, shaping them like a Christmas tree

If you like, add approximately a third of a cup of vin cotto (wine must) which makes the mixture darker, but will therefore require additional flour to bind the mixture

Bake in a moderate oven (approx. 160°C) for 20-30 minutes

Once cooled the biscuits can be decorated with icing (icing sugar and a few drops of lemon juice) piped around the biscuits to resemble Christmas tree decorations.

Notes: *Alternatively, the biscuits can be shaped flat (commonly in a diamond shape), completely glazed on the surface and sprinkled with a pinch of hundreds and thousands – if doing the latter sprinkle them as soon as iced to avoid the icing drying out.

The papassini photographed were made without vin cotto.

As per most recipes, the quantities and texture of the ingredients specified may differ to yours, for example the size of sultanas and how finely walnuts are chopped. Allow for a little extra of all ingredients on hand to assist with binding the mixture together.

About the cookbook, Terra Sarda: Sardinian Home Cooking in Australia

Terra Sarda is available to purchase for $45AUD+postage (within Australia) or $50AUD+postage (shipping outside Australia). For offline purchases of the book or for general enquiries, please email: or the President of the Sardinian Cultural Association (a not-for-profit), at:

Terra Sarda was funded with the assistance of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia

Terra Sarda was researched and written by Gabriella Gomersall Hubbard, Edited by Christopher Baker and Project Managed by Christopher Baker and Paolo Lostia