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: https://food52.com/blog...). 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
about 30 small cookies
(250 grams) raw unsalted shelled pistachios
(150 grams) sugar
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)
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.
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!
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.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.