Sicilian pistachio cookies are like macarons made with pistachio nuts instead of almonds. Utterly delightful.
The upside: this recipe is so easy I could remember it well enough to replicate, having seen it only once.
The downside: no idea WHERE I saw it so can’t reference the source. If you recognise the recipe and want to claim the ownership, authorship and patents pending, be my guest.
These biscuits are no doubt Sicilian; those southernmost Italians practically live on pistachios, almonds and chestnuts. Various Sicilian dolci use no other flour but ground nuts of one type or another.
I somehow don’t think they are all trying to be gluten free (gluten free pizza: just IMAGINE); it’s as incidental here as in arancini.
Sicily, home of the best pistachios
Sicilians are the proud producers of the tastiest, organically grown greenies.
They are nowhere near the largest exporter of the nuts but the ones farmed in the Sicilian province of Catania are DOP labelled and protected by the police during harvest time – it’s not a joke.
For us, living well north of Palermo, pistachios are expensive. Therefore I don’t imagine you or I should be making these cookies every week, but as an occasional treat they are outstanding.
How to make the Sicilian cookies
This is an Italian take on macaron biscuits, with pistachios replacing almonds.
The principle is the same if you’re familiar with macarons. Equal amounts of pistachios and sugar are blitzed together, then worked into a paste with egg white and lemon juice.
The small addition of plain flour is there to stop the biscuits from spreading too much during baking but if you want to keep them gluten free, replace it with an appropriate mix.
So far, so pretty: they are fun to make, a bit like rolling balls of pesto, and they look adorable raw.
They should be coated in icing sugar before baking and, optionally, decorated with a whole pistachio kernel pressed into the middle of each one.
Baking the Sicilian macarons
They don’t look quite as pretty when baked. They spread quite obscenely, the decorative pistachio atop each cookie turns ugly brown colour, and the icing sugar coating tends to evaporate somewhat.
I won’t blame you if you feel disappointed when pulling a tray of the cookies out of the oven after about ten minutes of baking.
Don’t lose heart though, because looks don’t matter – taste does, it’s proven again.
They are about the second best thing you can do with egg whites, nuts and sugar. They rank high up, close to madeleines, financières, said macarons, tuiles and croquants.
Just make sure you let them cool down completely before as much as touching them, or else they might disintegrate. They’ll set as they cool, and then can be transferred to an airtight jar.
More pistachio recipes
Cherry and pistachio tart inspired by Ottolenghi’s recipe. The base is shortcrust, the filling is pistachio frangipane made with pistachio paste which saves the bother of grinding pistachios – and the outcome is pure baking ecstasy.
Pistachio lemon shortbread bars. NY Times recipe for nutty shortcrust base and tangy lemon curd topping filled with more pistachios.
Lime yoghurt pistachio cake with lime and rosewater syrup drizzled all over it: I swear there isn't a better cake made with yoghurt. Or lime. Or pistachios.
More Italian biscuit recipes
Gingerbread biscotti spiced with Christmas flavour, crunchy and dunkable, with mixed nuts and cinnamon sugar coating. Honey and spice and a festive spirit twice cooked!
Italian ricotta cookies, soft and tender lemon biscuits made with ricotta cheese and butter. These Italian lemon ricotta biscuits, or biscotti alla ricotta, are just like Nonna’s.
Ricciarelli, almond shaped and almond flavoured biscuits from Siena, traditionally made and gifted for Christmas. An authentic recipe for these delightful marzipan sweets.