Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Shortt’ but sweet family visit nets a new dessert - recipe: Zia Maria's Amaretti

We just returned from a ‘short but sweet’ visit to Thunder Bay. My hubby David’s family lives there – his relatives were delighted to meet our little John. We had a great trip – plenty of visiting and LOTS of great eats!

My father-in-law, Rocco, is a fantastic cook. The night we arrived, he treated us to one of David’s favourite dishes – Italian sausage with chili-garlic romano bean & potato mash. All I can say is that it is now one of my favourites, too! The night before we left, Rocco made his famous fettucini with tomato sauce and meatballs. It was amazing! I think it’s rather fortunate that both David’s and my family share such a great love of food.

We also had a visit with his Zia (Aunt) Maria. It was such a wonderful afternoon! John delighted in playing in her beautiful back yard (she has the vegetable garden OF MY DREAMS). As John played, we nibbled on delicious antipasti that she lovingly prepared – think roasted red peppers with basil, handmade cured sausage, fresh bread with preserved olive spread and melon. Dessert? Espresso with her famous just-sweet-enough cookies – cranberry almond biscotti and my favourite, Amaretti.

Thanks goes to Gabriella Sacchetti, Maria’s daughter, for the recipe.

Amaretti (Italian Almond Chews)

makes about 30 cookies

ingredients for cookie

  • one-quarter cup egg whites (about 2 egg whites)
  • one cup sugar
  • one-and-one-half tablespoons pure almond extract
  • two-and-one-half to three cups whole, unpeeled almonds
  • one-quarter cup flour

ingredients for topping

  • About 30 whole, unpeeled almonds (note: reserve for topping, do not grind)
  • one egg white, beaten in bowl


  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray (do not skip this step, otherwise the cookies will stick to the paper)
  • Finely grind the whole, unpeeled almonds in a food processor. Measure about two-and-a-half cups into a mixing bowl. Reserve an additional half-cup of ground almonds, in case needed (see below). Add flour to mixing bowl with two-and-a-half cups ground almonds.
  • In a large glass measuring cup, beat the egg whites, sugar and extract well using a whisk.
  • Combine egg white mixture to flour-ground almond mixture. The mixture should be completely mixed but dry (think of wet sand at the beach that can be shaped and will hold its shape). This is the stage where you may need to add more of the reserved half-cup of ground almonds if needed, until the texture reaches the desired consistency.
  • Scoop out one tbsp size portions onto a plate, dip your fingers in the egg white mixture to lubricate your palms and form the portions into rounded balls and place on the parchment paper. Press a whole almond into the top of each cookie, pointy end first. Each ball will be slightly pressed, but will continue to spread slightly when baked.
  • Bake in the middle rack for 15-17 minutes – you want a slight colour on the edges, but the centre should remain chewy.
  • Buon appetito!

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