Dolce Italiano: Sicilian Pistachio Cookies

Important Note: I’m seeing some confusion in the comments section – You do not need pistachio paste to make this recipe – the original recipe (listed below) calls for whole pistachios. I used the paste because I had it on hand.

So we’re in week 2 of the Dolce Italiano contest. Here are the recipes from the past week:

If you haven’t commented on the other posts, make sure you do by Friday, December 7th.

First a bit of housekeeping: my Italy Gift Guide contest is over – comment #9 “k”contact me with your address so I can send you your Illy coffee tin! Thanks for all the input. Also, thank you for your votes on my “Italian Goodies” poll – it was very helpful – who knew tuna was so popular? I’m still shopping, so feel free to add your say.

This second recipe post from Dolce Italiano has a bit of a turbulent history. First I was making a tart for you. Then I made yummy zucchini bread. I even had the pictures ready. And then, Saturday happened.

This past weekend the Artigiano in Fiera opened here in Milan that I mentioned on my December Events in Milan post. I love this fair, even though it’s full of people and chaos – I went early Saturday morning exactly for this reason, and that I knew that the vendors would be a bit fresher on the first day. I rabidly started buying gifts and items for my Menu for Hope basket, and in about two hours, I was carrying about 15 kilos of goods and an empty wallet.

But before I left that day, I carried something with me that was not for sale anywhere in the fair. I stopped to talk to one of my favorite vendors who sells pistachio cream from Bronte. I mentioned how this past year his pistachio cream had become quite popular and how even a certain cookbook author turned it into ice cream.

He seemed surprised and said, “Wait a moment,” and disappeared into the back of the booth.

He reappeared a few minutes later with a gelato cup full of a dark green substance. “Here’s what we use for our gelato base – just Bronte pistachios and a little oil. Take it with you.”

Pure Bronte (Sicilian) Pistachios ready for my cookies

That’s when I knew I needed to make Gina’s Sicilian Pistachio Bars from Dolce Italiano. Gina’s probably wondering when I’m going to stop messing with her recipes, but in an expat kitchen, you have to roll with the situation.

My situation at 8 am on Sunday morning was that I didn’t have 1 1/4 cups of white sugar. I had one. I added some brown cane sugar to make up the difference, but I had no sugar to sprinkle on top. And since I had my pure pistachios already ground up, I also had no pistachios to sprinkle on top.

No pistachios, no sugar. That’s a pretty plain bar.

Then I remembered how when I was in Paris with my mom, I talked about how much I missed her frosted sugar cookies – when I was at university, I would beg for the occasional batch via care package. We bought me some mini cookie cutters, and I thought they would be the perfect size for this dough.

Oh, and some chocolate. Must have chocolate.

Sicilian Pistachio Cookies from Dolce Italiano

adapted from Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano. Below are the original ingredients as it appears in the cookbook. Immediately following the ingredients, I included my notes on how I modified the recipe. Note: You do not need pistachio paste to do this recipe!

Sicilian Pistachio Cookies from Dolce Italiano

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 c. shelled, whole (unsalted) Sicilian pistachios
1 c. (2 sticks/8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c. plus 2 t. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. amaretto or 1/2 t. pure almond extract
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

Sara’s add: Chocolate for melting and dipping (dark or semisweet)

Recipe notes:
The original recipe calls for you to cool the cooked dough and then slice in to bars or squares. If following my method to make cut-outs, make sure you have a very even work surface, and good pot holders (I love my silicon ones) since I cut the shapes on the cooked dough while it was still hot. The original recipe also calls for using 1/2 of the pistachios in the dough, and the other half sprinkled on top before baking.

  1. Preheat oven to 325F (160C). Line a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan with parchment paper and grease the paper. Sift flour and salt. Grind 1/2 of the pistachios finely and add them to the flour mixture. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, then the vanilla, amaretto/almond, and lemon zest.
  3. Add the flour slowly and mix well. Turn out the dough onto the pan and spread (with a normal or offset spatula) so that it’s evenly distributed. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios and sugar on the dough.
  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes (note: keep a close eye on them as mine finished before the time). After taking out the tray, allow to cool slightly and ready your cookie cutters. Use gloves and pot holders to protect yourself. Press down with the cookie cutters and give it a little wiggle at the bottom to separate it from the other dough. Transfer to a wire rack or parchment paper to cool – push cookie gently out of cutter.
  5. Allow cookies to cool completely. In a bain marie or double boiler, melt chocolate until smooth. Dip half of each cookie in the chocolate, and in sprinkles if desired and set to cool.

Moon & Stars - Sicilian Pistachio Cookies from Dolce Italiano

Be careful not to get overzealous with the sprinkles – I first dipped them directly into the bowl of sprinkles after the chocolate and they came out looking like they were affected by SSD – Sudden Sprinkle Death. I’m sure Robyn could think of a whole new doodle character based on this picture. After, I held the freshly-dipped cookie over the bowl and sprinkled onto the cookie and this worked much better.

Sprinkle monster cookie - Sicilian Pistachio Cookies from Dolce Italiano

foodbloggacookielogo.JPEGI want to submit these cookies to my friend Susan at Food Blogga’s Eat Christmas Cookies party – I tried to suggest a cookie swap at work recently and they didn’t seem very excited about having to do something as well, so this virtual swap may be my only cookie party this year. I hope you guys enjoy them!

Comment to be entered into the contest and check Ilva at Lucullian Delights tomorrow for another great recipe!

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  1. says

    Funny, but I don’t know anything about pistachios…this might be a good time to find out what I’ve been missing!

    And yes, sometimes a bit of creativity is required here in Italy….but that’s not a bad thing!

  2. lieludalis says

    The whole expat cooking thing really does force you to make adaptations. Perhaps this will make us better cooks, since it forces you to think a little more creatively?
    Looks delicious AND festive!

  3. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen says

    Those look amazing Sara! Yum! Great job with the modifications. I love them, and I thnk Gina will agree that is what cooking is all about!

  4. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @everyone – just to be clear, you do NOT need the pistachio paste to do this recipe – fresh pistachios will be great (as the original recipe indicates!)

  5. says

    Cute cookies with the sprinkles! My boys will eat anything if they have sprinkles on them. These cookies look like the would be good with tall glass of milk. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  6. says

    Sara these look great. I am a pistachio fan.

    I need to be more adventurous with my baking. In cooking I am but I get nervous going “off recipe” when it comes to baking. I guess once I move I will have to get over that.

  7. Lilian says

    Sara, the cookies look delicious–but I bet you could add the pistachio paste to the dough (as you would for peanut butter cookies) and have lovely green cookies. I would then dip them in chocolate, as you have, and sprinkle with chopped pistachios (and, for a holiday look, finely chopped dried cranberries)–to continue with the modifications of Gina’s original recipe. (Furthermore, I think you could reduce the butter by half if you used the pistachio paste.) …So, what ARE you going to do with that paste? How do you usually use it?

  8. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @Lilian – I did use the paste in the cookies! :) I unfortunately didn’t have any of the regular pistachios, only the paste to sprinkle on top. That was my dilemma – but you could make them either way.

  9. says

    As terrible as I am at making cut-out (rolled) cookies, and as much as I hate trying to make them, I guess I am just going to have to bite the bullet, make some cut-out cookies and practice, practice, practice cause these cookies look and sound sooooo good!

  10. gina says

    Sara, the cookies looks fantastic, and you did what most chefs wish their readers to do…expriment! That is how you make a recipe your own, and if you mess up, you begin to understand how different methods and formulas give different results.


    Just to clarify, these are not traditional rolled cookies, wherein the dough is rolled and cut raw. You stamped out baked cookies, which is an unusual twist. I think beginners may have better luck trying them the standard way the first time around.

  11. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @Gina – you’re definitely right, I hope people read carefully – this is NOT rolled-out and stamped dough. Mine was actually too sticky to do that (maybe because of the paste) and I decided after the fact! :) I didn’t waste anything – even the extra bits got eaten and dipped in chocolate!

  12. cbright67 says

    These look perfect for a tray of Christmas cookies to give as gifts. BTW, don’t feel like you can’t share the zucchini bread recipe with us too!!

  13. Sherry says

    oh yum! you have now provided me with the second recipe I can use for my cookie swap – this plus the biscotti. Thanks!

  14. says

    This must be fantastic, no doubt. And I have to say, it is quite hard to find pistachio paste, at least here in Austria…But it’s something speciall, I love it :)

  15. says

    Thanks for the reminder on the Fiera – I will definitely be wading into that sea of shopping posthaste. As far as anything to do with pistachios: andiamo!

  16. says

    Love them. They’re so kitsch-cute. And that’s not an insult, I’m big on kitsch and colour and not so wild about pretentious food. Also I’ve got to try and make some pistachio paste. Do you think it is olive oil or something like sunflower or canola that is tasteless?

  17. Cara says

    These look fabulous – maybe I will get a chance to make them before my husband finishes the bag of pistachios in the cupboard! (he thinks I don’t know he’s sneaking them, but I do!)

  18. says

    A day late and a dollar short, but I am loving these cookies. The sprinkles are adorable and the idea of the chocolate dip was a good, creative fix to add some sweetness. Bravissima! Now, if you can only find a way to get them into a care package for me here in Rome. Shameless, I know!

  19. says

    These look very yummy. I have recently stumbled across your wonderful blog and am glad that I did and glad that you have 4 other friends that are baking. I’m glad that through you I found them. I am living my dream of living in Italy through you and your friends. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  20. says

    Oh did you get away with a steal or WHAT? A whole cup of pistachio paste? That is awesome. Just THINK of all the great stuff you can make with that. That is a great day at the markets on any count.

    Meanwhile, I love your adaptations. That’s the beauty of baking and cooking from recipes – you can make your own tweaks so that they’re *just right*. And they look really sweet with sprinkles and stars. Brava!

  21. says

    I wanted to take a spoon and dip it right into that paste. Call me crazy but it looks so delicious.
    The cookies look yummy and I also like the chocolate dip bit.

  22. says

    I love pistachios, but have never cooked with them. I’ve made cookies and cakes with just about every other kind of nut, but never had a pistachio recipe. I’m going to have to try this one.

  23. says

    I love every bit of tinkering you did here Sara–they are simply delightful! What a delicious addition they will be to Eat Christmas Cookies. Now, if only I could find a way to squeeze in a visit to the Artigiano in Fiera to get myself some of that pistachio paste. …Thanks, Susan.

  24. Anna L'americana says

    Judith – the key to authentic Italian recipes would be locally available ingredients, no offense intended to Gina, I think she has made all these desserts better than the originals, that’s why its her cookbook and not a collection of traditional recipes…that said, I think it has been made very clear that the paste, sprinkles and the cookie cutters were NOT part of Gina’s original recipe!
    I believe successful emergency substitutions are the sign of a true foodie-at-heart. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe exactly the way it was written – I always end up having to accommodate availability, my own tastes, etc. The proof is in the results! Yum!

  25. says

    I like your addition – dark chocolate! I ma making these for a work afternoon tea – these cookies will be a hit; though making and eating all of these recipes, means my clothes are a very tight fit!

  26. says

    I just pulled these cookies out of the oven, cooled them and cut them into bars. Oh my goodness – I am in love. They are sweet and nostalgic – reminding me of my Sicilian grandmother. I will make these every week until Christmas! (I will post photos on my blog later this week.)

  27. says

    These do look yummy, and the ingredient reference to “Sicilian pistachios” makes me think that I should load up on them when I go to Sicily this coming March.

  28. Rachel says

    Any thoughts on making the cookies non-dairy with margerine? Wondering if it would work with this particular recipe. Thanks!

  29. paul says

    I am looking for an Italian recipie for almond pistachio cookie almost like the macaroon onteh same Idea but made into a loaf or long then cut into pieces and baked then I beleive it is rolled into confecioners sugar or something like that
    Does anyone have he recipie or know where I can get it

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