Biscotti al Pistacchio

Biscotti al Pistacchio Recipe

I'm not quite sure where to begin today's post. Maybe it's best to start at the end? Let's try. By 11:30 on one of my last mornings in Rome I found myself walking down the Janiculum hill toward the Trastevere section of the city below. The view is expansive, and I would stop now and then to pick out buildings and landmarks, or take the occasional snapshot. My bag was heavy, and a glance inside revealed a just-picked pomegranate, two books and a kraft-paper bag filled with a toasty pepita and amaranth-flecked granola. I spent the morning visiting Mona Talbott at the American Academy in Rome, and I'm sure it is no surprise to those of you who know Mona or her work - it was one of the most inspiring mornings I've had in a long time.

Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

The American Academy in Rome weaves itself into my life now and then. Years back, when I would help research potential speakers for TED, I would regularly spend time exploring the work of Rome Prize winners. And prior to that, I fell for this delightful little "insider" guidebook of must-visit places in Rome. It was compiled from the collective knowledge of many academy fellows and friends - a mix of writers, architects, designers, scholars, and the like. My copy is nearly ten years old, and it's the one book we still bring along whenever we pass through Rome.

But, back to the academy. There are some really cool things going on there. One of which is the Rome Sustainable Food Project. You can read about it in depth here, and here, and here. In a nutshell, it's one of the few places I've encountered where institutional dining is not only worth celebrating, but potentially worth emulating as well. Alice Waters and Mona Talbott have been successful in working within the academy to create a meaningful food culture meant to nourish and support individual well-being, scholarship, and conviviality. Amen. Maybe some of you will feel compelled to argue a counterpoint here, but my experience has been that institutional dining has much need for improvement. Inspiration is much needed, and it was great to encounter it so far from home.

Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

Actually, another inspiring example of food being integrated into the fabric of an institution is at the Oxbow School in Napa, California. Here's a post I did in 2005 about their school lunch (under chef Tracy Bates). There's still no place I'd rather have lunch in Napa, alongside the kids, overlooking the river. And I don't think it's any coincidence that Mona and Tracy are friends, or that both of them are Chez Panisse alumni.

Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

Mona showed me the kitchen, and the gardens, and the spot on the lawn where Galileo first demonstrated his telescope in Rome - the academy occupies the highest point inside the walls of historic Rome. The talented Elizabeth Minchilli joined us, I met the other academy cooks, had a perfect macchiato, and tasted a spicy little gem of a cookie baked by Mirella Misenti. Mirella's story is fascinating in it's own right. She was the dishwasher at the academy. She now spearheads pastry and has co-authored Biscotti with Mona. It's the just-published first book in a series of tiny, thoughtful books that we will see come out of the Rome Sustainable Food Project. It sounds like there there will be a volume on salads, and one on soup, and others beyond that. You can see some of the spreads from Biscotti here. I baked up Mirella's Sicilian pistachio cookies as soon as I got home. They look snow-dusted from a distance, but reveal dense, pistachio-green insides after a bite. I include the recipe down below.

Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

I'd be hard-pressed to think of a better way to wrap up a three-week trip. Thank you Mona. I look forward to cooking with you someday, or washing dishes, or whatever it takes to hang out in your kitchen. In the meantime, I'm excited to bake more from Biscotti, and I'm always game for testing soup recipes. I imagine I'll also be busy trying to reverse-engineer your granola.

Related links:

- If you're interested in having lunch at the academy, or if you just want to be more involved, there is a way to do it. Friends of the AAR have the ability to enjoy lunch at the American Academy in Rome with up to ten guests, by reservation. You also get the e-newsletter, and invitations to select AAR events. If you spend more time in Rome, or live there, some of the other options might appeal to you as well.

- American Academy in Rome Facebook page.

- Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project.

- Mona was featured in Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs, I featured her Pounded Walnut Strozzapreti recipe here.


Biscotti al Pistacchio Recipe (Pistachio Cookies)

I used a fine, light-brown natural cane sugar here, because it is what I keep on hand. It makes the dough a bit darker, but worked nicely. Use whatever fine grain sugar you like. I also made a portion of my cookies extra tiny. For itty-bitty cookies, form not much more than a teaspoon of dough (1/4 oz / 6-8 g) into balls. Scale back the baking time to 8 - 10 minutes. I should also note, the first time I baked these I only had salted / lightly toasted pistachios on hand. Don't worry if you're in the same boat, the cookies are still delicious, but taste a bit more hearty and rustic. If you use raw, skinless pistachios you end up with an extra-vibrant green cookie underneath the powdered coating.

4 1/3 cups / 500 g raw pistachios
1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest

scant 1/2 cup egg whites / 3 1/2 oz - from 3 large eggs

1 cup confectioners' sugar, for coating cookies

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.

Pulse the pistachios in a food processor with 1/2 cup / 100 g of the granulated sugar until the nuts are finely chopped. (Heidi note: I pulsed the nuts until they were the texture of chunky, gravelly sand / lightly pebbled.)

Combine the ground pistachio-sugar mixture with the honey, vanilla, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the egg white, mixing until the dough is well combined and soft. At this point, add the rest of the granulated sugar and mix gently.

Form the dough into small balls, 16 g / 12 oz, and roll them in the confectioners' sugar to coat well. Transfer the balls to cookies sheets lined with parchment paper, leaving at least an inch between each cookie.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the edges of each cookie are golden.

These cookies can be stores in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 50 cookies.

Slightly adapted from the Biscotti al Pistacchio recipe in - Biscotti: Recipes from the Kitchen of The American Academy in Rome, The Rome Sustainable Food Project.

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Your Comments

I love making homemade biscotti, although only do it near Christmas time. It seems like pistachio is an Italian favorite flavor - like pistachio gelato.

Do these have the same texture (really dry) like regular biscotti? My recipe calls for cooking the cookies at a really low temp for longer. I'll have to try this recipe b/c it sounds pretty easy!


October 20, 2010

Those look brilliant! Is it possible to cut the sugar content or increase the honey?


October 20, 2010

I love putting nuts into dough--hazelnuts are a particular favorite, especially when you use enough to give the dough a lacy texture. Welcome home!


October 20, 2010

Pistachio grow in the southern region of Sicily. We definitely do love pistachio, and use them in a lot of different kind of deserts and savory dishes.


Such a simple recipe, I bet they taste fantastic!


October 20, 2010

I love how it has few ingredients. Mama mia, que bueno! --pardon my Italian :)


October 20, 2010

Such a great post. We've been missing you, but we knew you would bring us back something good :)


Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks
October 20, 2010

Mmm, those look delicious and oh so cute! I'd love to try making them.


Melissa Panzer
October 20, 2010

Excellent recipe -- they make festive Christmas cookies if you add dried cranberries. Bon appettito (spelling?)!!


October 20, 2010

I have such a weakness for pistachios! These sound simple enough to really let the pistachios shine.


October 20, 2010

Every X-mas I make Pistachio Biscotti with Cranberries and White Chocolate and people go nuts for them! You can't go wrong with a classic!


the blissful baker
October 20, 2010

what lovely biscotti! they look scrumptious!


Angela (Oh She Glows)
October 20, 2010

Wow, thse are just gorgeous and such a unique twist on traditional biscotti. I have never seen them made into balls before. Brilliant. Thanks for sharing your travels.


I've been following your blog for a while, loving it! I appreciate real culinary talent, thank you for sharing yours. I hope more people catch onto the close connection to eating healthy all-natural foods and enjoying better health as well as the superior taste it has over artificial, prepackaged, and genetically modified foods.


Heidi, These cookies look wonderful. Can't wait to see how fresh and zingy (is that a word ??) it makes these cookies! Thanks for a great recipe. -Mary


Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet
October 20, 2010

The Biscotti cookbook looks intriguing and if it helps support sustainable food, I am there.

Raw pistacchios, I just don't remember ever seeing any. I will give it another try because these cookies look worth it. It is time to start gathering cookies recipes for Christmas baking and this one looks like it is the first of the batch!



Joe @ Eden Kitchen
October 20, 2010

I love the photo of the clouds. Cute looking recipe too. Thanks :)


October 20, 2010

I've only ever tried making apricot biscotti which I didn't like much because of the dryness. Might try this as you can't go wrong with pistachios!


October 21, 2010

Mmmm...cookies without flour and made with pure grounded pistacchios! I love pistacchios. I can't wait to try making this one soon.


Pam @ Kitchen Cookware
October 21, 2010

Thanks for introduction to Mona and Academy. I love this tiny cookies or biscotti, just perfect bit size and I loved pistachio, yummy!


Jessica @ How Sweet
October 21, 2010

Mmmm these look delicious!


October 21, 2010

These look amazing! And naturally gluten and dairy free! I'm tempted to try them instead of the ginger cookies I was going to make today- life's dilemmas!


Simply Life
October 21, 2010

Oh wow, these programs sound great! Thanks for the info and recipe!


October 21, 2010

The UK Daily Telegraph today published seven more recipes from this book (with weights rather than volumes).


October 21, 2010

This recipe is truly creative. I absolutely love it!


Bogna@Pots and Frills
October 21, 2010

Thanks for sharing your experience and this lovely recipe. It sounds very easy and looks delicious!


October 21, 2010

I love pistachios with my whole heart. If they weren't so expensive here, they would be my favorite nut! Thanks for this recipe, I love that there's no butter in it!



I adore pistachios - funny thing is I can only find 'em in shells so whenever I use them in a recipe I spend an hour shelling.... worth it though!


October 21, 2010



October 21, 2010

Wow! Again! I've got to the stage where there is no point book-marking your recipes. I have so many book-marks now I don't know where to begin...

Your site is very inspiring! x


October 21, 2010

this sounds wonderful! can't wait to try it. your visions of rome are sending me into a wistful daydream.... i could use a little rome myself right about now!


laura @ alittlebarefoot
October 21, 2010

i have never made biscotti before, and now i'm not sure why. i love pistachios! this looks great, thanks.


October 21, 2010

These remind me of an old Nigella recipe, a pistachio macaroon that was a stunning pale jade.

These, however, might double duty as breakfast. At least in my book :) Thanks, Heidi.


October 21, 2010

Baking another batch of biscotti has been on my to-do list for weeks now. Thanks for sharing a new recipe!


October 21, 2010

Biscotti, or unscotti? ;)

However many times you bake them, they look just darling. Pistachios are so perfect for winter baking; the bright green is so cheerful.


October 21, 2010

I love pistachios! I once made cookies whose only ingredients were pistachios, sugar, and an egg. They were really yummy!
These cookies sound similar but with much more flavor. I'm gonna love them I'm sure.


Tall Clover
October 21, 2010

It's surprising there's no flour in the recipe--that should make my gluten free pals happy.


October 21, 2010

I have never been any place like this before. It really sounds beautiful. You have a way of making me feel like I am right there with you. I hope you will share more of you trip with us because this is the only way I will ever get to visit there. I love the recipe even though I have never had it before. I get to try all kind of new things with each new post.


October 21, 2010

I LOVE these kinds of recipes. No adaptations, no figuring out what to substitute the wheat flour with. This looks, easy, brilliant and delicious. Perfect for holiday entertaining. Thank you!


Cassandra Potier Watkins
October 21, 2010

I recently came upon your site and immediately put it on my 'inspiration' feed. Your stories, pictures, mood are all so harmonious.


October 21, 2010

My biggest weakness is cookbooks and any time you recommend one, I buy it. You have never steered me wrong!


October 21, 2010

Mmmm so excited to see this recipe. It's so rare to find cookies like this in the US and ever since I had green pistachio cookies like this in Sicily I've been obsessed. Thanks!


October 21, 2010

These look perfect! Thanks for the tips on making tiny cookies. I love a mini treat and then don't feel guilty having two!


October 21, 2010

Your stories leading up to the featured recipe always inspire me to rush off to the kitchen, so don't mind if I do.


October 21, 2010

Thanks for sharing these! They look amazing as do your photos as well.


October 21, 2010

I've been reading this blog for years because I love the recipes and they are so fun to play around with. This time I didn't have pistachios, lemon, or eggs. But I did have cashews, lime, and apple sauce spiked with some ground flax seeds. They came out so good I just had to share the substitutions. Thanks for the wonderful recipes. They are such an inspiration.


October 21, 2010

I had the wonderful luck of spending a month at the Academy studying archaeology in 2007 just as they were starting the Sustainable Food Program. It is a magical place and the amazing food made dinner every evening a feast for the senses as well as the mind. Thank you for introducing more people to the Academy and the Food Program.

Also... The cookies look delicious!


October 21, 2010

A lovely post and a beautifully simple recipe, thanks.
I wish I'd known about the Academy when I was in Rome 2 years ago - but I will just have to bake the biscotti and dream of my next trip!


October 21, 2010

Wow, what amazing work they are doing both at the Rome Sustainable Food Project and Oxbow School. It's so inspiring to see that there is hope for a better world! There's a similar project in Australia that I'm hoping to get involved with at some stage, run by Guru Australian chef Stephanie Alexander.


October 21, 2010

I love your recipe and that area of Rome, as well. Thanks for sharing.


Denise Michaels
October 21, 2010

Ahhhhhh, diets. In the face of such delicious temptation. What to do?

Start baking!!!


I can make my husband fall in love with me all over again with these!
:-) Mandy


October 21, 2010

I will try your cookies. I love your stories and account of your trip. I have published a book with few desserts on it. Love to bake. So this pistacdhio cookies sounds like a winner to me. My husband loves pistacchios. thanks


These look divine. Yum! Thanks for all the lovely links about the Rome Sustainable Food Project - sounds brillaint!
Heidi xo


October 22, 2010

Heidi - You're just amazing and inspiring. Thanks for the wonderful photos and super nuggets of info. Kathy - thanks for the substitution ideas, not doing eggs and wondering if flax sees would fly :o)


October 22, 2010

I love Italian cookies, and good recipes for them are hard to come by. I can tell that this is the real thing, and can hardly wait to make them. Unfortunately, raw pistachios are hard to find, and even the roasted, salted ones are very dear in the midwest. If this recipe is typical of the Biscotti book, I've got to buy it! Thanks for another great post.


October 22, 2010

I love anything that has pistacchio in it. I can not wait to make these. They look like little bite size pieces of heaven.


October 22, 2010

Welcome back Heidi! The cookies look really yummy! Love all the photos and links in your post...Thanks


New Cook
October 23, 2010

How many lemons will it take to produce 1-1/2 tablespoons of the zest? Thank you.


October 23, 2010

Those look good!
Is that sugar on top?


October 23, 2010

I made them!! And they are very tasty. I reduced the sugar just a bit because I like things to be less sweet. Only problem I had is that the powdered sugar all melted into the cookies while they baked and when they came out they looked like little meatballs. Not the prettiest but they taste great, with just that hint of lemon zest, like a macaroon only better.


October 23, 2010

ohh...i loooove pistachios. this looks amazing.


October 24, 2010

I made these as well and they were divine, I couldn't stop eating them. They were deliciously chewing and looked great. I used pure icing sugar to coat them so they were still white and crackly in appearance (the icing sugar didn't melt away). I also just mixed the egg white, honey, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind together first and then added the pistacio/sugar mixture to that - it seemed easier and it worked.


I am pretty sure if I made these for my momma, I could get in the lead as favourite child. Beautiful!


October 24, 2010

Thanks for bringing back fond memories of visiting with a friend @ American Academy in the mid 70's... I was there between xmas & New Year's so got to have dinner there xmas eve & party on New Year's eve (people were throwing glasses off the roof!). I had my first real tortellini in brodo there and have loved it ever since. At the time, I was impressed with how much better the food was there than @ my home university (where my parents "tasted" food in the cafeteria & immediately bought be my own mini frig!)... these cookies look great. They look like a pistachio version of an amaretti.


Elizabeth Minchilli
October 25, 2010

Heidi, I only saw this post today, since I was in Torino all week long for Slow Food's Salone del Gusto. Thank you so much for promoting the Academy, the RSFP and the Friends of the Academy. I hope to see you soon.
FYI: I made a big batch of the Hazelnut Butter Cookies, and they were fantastic!


October 25, 2010

Absolutely delicious! I only had salted pistachios at home, but the contrast with the slightly caramelised sugar coating was well worth the time spent shelling the pistachios! Thank you for sharing.


Rocky Mountain Woman
October 25, 2010

I am all over pistachio anything, much less biscotti. Thanks for a great idea!!!


October 25, 2010

Thank you Heidi for mentioning of this great little book, bought it over the weekend and cant wait to start experimenting, love the short stories too.....happy cooking


October 25, 2010

It is so nice of you to tell us about your travels. I love to hear about all the fun you had and what you have learned. I also, like the new recipes that you share with us. This is always a nice place to visit.


October 25, 2010

what would be the vegan version? in other words, what can one substitute egg whites for?

thank you! these are delicious!


October 26, 2010

Sometimes I wish I had your life, but heck, mostly I wish I had mine. I agree with the "anything pistachio". and these sound great. I'm into ice cream myself, and yesterday I had a daydream about a bag of pistachios and my maker (ice cream, that is). I have a friend who did a stint at the AAR, and he is a foodie based strictly on his own simple desires, and an Italophile of the first order. His memories of the food there must be pre-sustainability project, but it all makes me want to get to ROMA!


October 26, 2010

I love anything pistachio! I can't wait to make these. Thanks for sharing!


Caitlin @ Amuse-bouche
October 26, 2010

Ooh these do look amazing! They would make such a great holiday treat.


October 27, 2010

These gorgeous little biscotti have just come out of the oven and they smell divine. I can't wait to dig in! Thinking I'll have one with a bowl of chocolate gelato after dinner... very naughty!


Anna @ FrugalGal.or
October 27, 2010

One of the many (many, many) things I love about Italian cooking and food is the frequent use of pistachios. They add such interesting and unique flavor that I always want to come back for more.


October 28, 2010

Saw the recipe, had to make it. Pistachios being $14 per pound, that's the only down side to this recipe. Everyone tries to guess what's in the cookie, and I haven't had a person not fall in love with it yet. Also did Chocolate Puddle recipe for a work event, they literally flew off the table. Still plan on trying the savory/sweet olive biscuits.....enjoy your blog and your food sensibilities.


October 29, 2010

Mmmm :) soo good! My husband loved them so much he finally stopped hitting me! :)


The Bounty Hunter
October 29, 2010

Oooh I love pistachios- this looks like a yummy cookie. Thanks for sharing yet another inspiring recipe.


November 2, 2010

Hi Heidi, I made these today after reading your blog and decided to blog about them on my own site. They turned out wonderfully. I made the itty bitty version and found I still had to bake them for 15-18 minutes for them to cook all the way. Great recipe though - super easy. And I will be going to the Innocenti biscotti place you mentioned on another post on our trip to Rome in a few weeks too!


November 5, 2010

These were dangerously delicious and absolutely SIMPLE to make!!


November 7, 2010

Made these today and they were ridiculously easy to make and turned out prefect! The only pain was the $20 worth of pistachios I bought but everything else I already had on hand so the $20 really isn't that bad. Do you think you could make these with almonds? or pecans? I know the taste would change but I wonder if that would be a good substitute. Thanks for another great recipe!


I made these this weekend with friends. Very lovely. The tiny cookies are perfect because of their richness. Will be making again, but next time, I'll cut back on the lemon zest.


December 26, 2010

mille grazie for this recipe...they were the perfect treat for my gluten-intolerant Mom-in-law. I made a batch with pistachios, and then another with hazelnuts. Tutti e due erano delizioso!!