What are your most vivid food memories? My blurry toddler flashes are framed by food and my grandparents. Dripping syrup over buttery waffles with my Grandma, eating juicy cherries with her on the porch, watching her peel potato skin into long strips with a knife. Rolling out my own little ball of dough while my Nana formed ravioli, waking up to the smell of her meatballs frying on Sunday mornings, at holiday time watching her frost dozens and dozens of Italian anise cookies, laid out preciously on the dining room table.
Italian almond cookies, amaretti, are a holiday tradition here, and though this recipe is not exactly how my grandmothers made them, I’m ready to add some new food memories to my collection.
Italian Almond Cookies (Amaretti)
(recipe from here makes about 3 dozen)
2 1/4 cups blanched whole almonds (about 12 ounces), plus more for garnishing
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or oil lightly. In food processor, combine 2 1/4 cups almonds and 1/3 cup sugar. Process until finely ground, scraping down sides once or twice. Set aside. In electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at high speed until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Return speed to high and beat mixture until stiff, shiny peaks form. Gently fold in ground almond mixture and almond and vanilla extracts. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls, place 2 inches apart on baking sheets, and flatten slightly. Top each with almond. Bake until cookies are golden, switching positions of pans halfway through, about 25 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Cookies keep, wrapped, several days, or frozen, several weeks. Recrisp in warm oven.
P.S. When I bought the almonds this morning from my fruit guy, Enzo, he asked, “You’re making amaretti aren’t you?” Which tells you everything about Italy; 1) People are nosy. 2) Traditions are important.