Sicilian Pistachio Cookies

gluten free italian cookiesGrown in the rich volcanic soils surrounding Mount Etna, Sicilian pistachios are highly prized for their verdant green color and pronounced flavor, and every pasticceria on the rugged island offers a proliferation of pistachio-studded sweets. You’ll find pistachio nougats, pistachio candies and cookies and cakes. Around the corner, pistachio gelato. Oh, gelato.

I’d been looking high and low for a solid baking recipe that paired lemon with pistachio, and these rustic biscotti al pistacchio won the prize. No matter their country of origin, cookies are as much about texture as anything else, and these have it in spades: tender and coarse-grained, with warm, layered flavor, a bright note from lemon zest and a satisfying chew. The cookies are a sweet punctuation to the end of a meal, just the right size to snuggle up next to an espresso or glass of vin santo. And with other little bites they’re a pretty addition to a cookie plate, preferably one that showcases the crispy-sandy-chewy-crunchy-cakey pantheon of cookies so you can have one of each.

Also, it occurred to me as I was preparing the dough that with no leaveners or butter, these cookies should be a-ok for Passover; omit the vanilla (alcohol base) and powdered sugar (cornstarch) or substitute kosher-for-Passover powdered sugar that’s blended with potato starch. And if you have gluten-free friends coming to your Seder, they’re in luck, too: no wheat in these baked treats. If you have a lot of gluten-free friends coming over, the recipe doubles or triples easily.

Sicilian Pistachio Cookies
adapted from Biscotti by Mona Talbott and Mirella Misenti, 2011; makes about 2 dozen small cookies

  • 1 1/2 C raw pistachios (shelled and unsalted), plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 C almond meal
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • scant 1/2 C powdered sugar

Preheat to oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the almond meal, pistachios and half of the sugar measure until finely chopped (but not fully ground). Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the vanilla, lemon zest and honey. Add the whites and mix. Add the sugar and gently combine. (You might find it easier to use your hands.) Form into tablespoon-sized balls and roll in the powdered sugar to coat. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment, leaving about an 1 1/4″ distance between each cookie. Press a pistachio into each cookie for garnish.

Bake 15-18 minutes until fragrant, crackled and golden brown. When cooled, transfer to an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Note: If you don’t already have almond meal in your pantry, don’t buy it but substitute an extra 3/4 C + 2 Tbsp pistachios. (I didn’t have enough pistachios and subbed in almond meal.) I sought out a natural-foods store with a sizable bulk section for the shelled pistachios, which can be expensive at some markets.


About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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26 Responses to Sicilian Pistachio Cookies

  1. Those are simply stunning. I can’t wait to try. Thanks for sharing.

  2. These look so beautiful with their crackly tops! Wonderful!

  3. Tiffany says:

    I wonder if I made these, it would make my Sicilian Mother-in-Law proud of me? I will try, they sound wonderful!

  4. These cookies look delicious! They look similar to amaretti except with pistachios. Will def have to try!

  5. Claudia says:

    Wonderful, rustic nutty morsels – a mini-trip to Sicily.

  6. Sara says:

    These cookies are a must try! And you are right…it’s all about the texture!

  7. These look absolutely wonderful! Beautiful photo too 🙂

  8. Medeja says:

    They look absolutely amazing!

  9. This reminds me, I’ve made pistachio-lemon cookies once before. The combination of pistachio and lemon seemed so appealing then and it’s the same now. I actually like your addition of almond meal here. Must try that sometime. 🙂

  10. WOW…
    these look really delicious!
    you have a wonderful blog kate..I’m really glad I found it

  11. FOODESSA says:

    I will be making these cookies for 3 main reasons: they look great…no flour…and two Sicilian brother-in-laws who love cookies.
    Thanks for sharing this delightful treat ;o)

    Flavourful wishes,

  12. These are cookies I’d love to try to make one day! They sound wonderful! 🙂

  13. Debbie Appelman says:

    Your recipe looks delicious – I noticed though that you have 1 1/2 tsp honey listed twice. I want to try it but I’m wondering if thats just a duplication or if it’s supposed to be another ingredient.

  14. Lena says:

    I made these for company this week and they are delicious! Chewy, nutty, and crisp all in one mouthful. Thanks Scarpetta Kate!

  15. P says:

    Hi, great recipe! Just wanted to check – you add your pistachios raw? I just noticed that a lot of other recipes toast them first. Do you think they work better untoasted?

    • Hi! The shelled pistachios I used were roasted (and unsalted). If yours are raw, you can certainly toast them to coax out a little more flavor, but I don’t think you need to bother since they’ll be headed to the oven anyway! It won’t affect the structure of the cookies if you substitute one for the other.

  16. Janey says:

    Hi, can you please tell me if the egg white should be whipped first or just added from the egg.
    These cookies look amazing and I can’t wait to try them.

  17. Sarah says:

    just made these for the first time and they are by far the best recipe for authentic pistachio cookies. i added a 1/2 tsp of salt to mine and used a little less lemon zest, a little over a 1/4 tsp just because i like a little less lemon flavor in mine. thank you so, so much! incredible recipe!

  18. Kind Greetings again! I recently copies your Asparagus + Gruyere Tart, and had to try this one out too…
    Takes me back to being a kid! These look great, and tasted delicious. Thanks for the recipe and idea..
    Gave you a shout out + Ping back:

  19. Pingback: Sicilian Pistachio Cookies « Della Cucina Povera

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