Pistachio Cookies (Pastine di Pistacchi)

August 17, 2015
6 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
  • Makes about 30 small cookies
Author Notes

These are typical little cookies from Sicily, particularly well known around the area of Bronte near Mount Etna, where they produce Italy's best pistachios. Make sure to start with raw (not toasted) unsalted pistachios—it helps, too, if they already have been popped out of their shells. The skins on or off make little difference.

The most traditional recipes call for equal weights of sugar and pistachios, but the Sicilians do have quite the sweet tooth. I find that nearly half the amount of sugar is already sweet enough.

Note that when adding the egg white, start with just one, beaten, and add it a little at a time before cracking and separating your second egg white, as you may not even need it. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a batter thick enough that you can either roll it or scoop it (using a teaspoon) into balls.

Sometimes they are rolled in powdered sugar as they are being formed into little balls, which forms pretty little cracks in the cookies as they bake. Sometimes they can be decorated with a little glaze of melted dark chocolate (this one is just perfect: Sometimes a little cinnamon or cardamom is added in the mixture for a bit of extra spice. And always you can enjoy them with a glass of some sticky and sweet wine after dinner or with tea and coffee at any time of the day. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 9 ounces (250 grams) raw unsalted shelled pistachios
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 to 2 egg whites (or as much as is needed—see headnote)
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) dark chocolate (optional, for decoration)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Blitz the pistachios in a food processor for a minute or two, until they resemble crumbly sand. Combine in a bowl with the sugar, honey, and citrus zest. Add one beaten egg white, a bit at a time, and stir until the mixture just begins to come together. You want a dough that you can easily roll into balls or scoop with a teaspoon.
  2. If it's too dry, add a little more beaten egg white from a second egg. Add a little at a time—it's difficult to go backwards with this recipe, so try not to reach a point where the mixture is too wet!
  3. Roll into walnut-sized balls (or scoop using a teaspoon) and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (they do not spread much). Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to turn golden-brown and are firm to the touch on top. Cool completely before serving as is. Or, melt the chocolate in a bain marie (double boiler) and drizzle it over the cool cookies. Serve with dessert wine, tea, or coffee.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • kemturner
  • Dishlicious
  • Windischgirl
  • Emiko

11 Reviews

Syl December 21, 2019
Love the taste! Tried twice and the cookies flatten out in the oven. What did I do wrong? Total amateur here. Any advice is appreciated
Emiko December 27, 2019
Hmm, hard to know but possibly there is too much egg white? The mixture should just come together but not be too crumbly, a consistency that you can roll into balls.
kemturner August 16, 2019
Addicted! My nine year old daughter LOVES these cookies. We've made them twice in one week and she's announced that she'd like to take these cookies with her to school for merenda when school starts back next month. Thanks Emiko! My daughter is such a picky eater!!
Emiko August 19, 2019
So very glad to hear this, thank you for the feedback!
Dishlicious November 2, 2016
Are these similar in texture to pignoli cookies? Chewy?
Windischgirl November 20, 2015
Are these soft? We had nut cookies of various types and flavors at the Christmas Market in Milan a bunch of years ago, and hubby went crazy for them, and I have not been able to find a recipe. The texture I'm looking for is similar to marzipan but not as sweet.
Emiko November 20, 2015
They are! Soft and sweet, they sound similar to what you're looking for.!
Windischgirl November 20, 2015
Thanks! Might be the perfect Christmas gift for my guy.
beejay45 October 21, 2015
These are sort of hazelnut macaroons, aren't they?
Erica September 9, 2015
I'm unclear if the egg white is beaten to a peak or just stirred up? I'm also wondering if this recipe can be doubled easily - when I look at the ingredient list it doesn't seem that it could make 30 small cookies unless they were for a doll house!!!! thank you for clarifying, these look lovely!
Emiko September 9, 2015
Just as the instructions say, you simply mix in the egg white as it is (you can beat it lightly with a fork for a few seconds just to loosen it if you like but it shouldn't be beaten to peaks). The cookies are "walnut sized" (with bottoms that are not much bigger than a quarter) as described. A little goes a long way! ;)