OTV Cuisine: Ricciarelli – Italian Almond Biscuits

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Ricciarelli are probably one of my favourite things to make at Christmas. I don’t really deviate much from the recipe below, although I do usually make a chocolate version as well. Chocolate, although very different, is just as delicious and I recommend giving both a try.

I first tried these biscuits at a friend’s house many years ago and instantly fell in love with them. Despite me begging my friend for the recipe, she unfortunately couldn’t help me – she didn’t know how to make them, and had been given the biscuits by an Italian friend of hers. I tried finding the recipe myself but was unsuccessful and so had to give up, until one day, on a trip to Italy, I saw them in a shop. As you can imagine I immediately bought them, and once I was finished with devouring my long lost biscuits, I scoured the bookshops until I found a book that contained a recipe for them. Luckily for me, I was in the right region, and managed to find a baking book which had the recipe. Even though the book was in Italian, I had to buy it and just translated the recipe on my return (thank you Google translate!) I have never looked back. I now make them every single year without fail.

These biscuits originate from Italy, Siena to be exact and date back from around the 14th century. Apparently, they were introduced by a local Count on his return from the Crusades – although I can’t vouch for how true that legend is.

They are typically served at Christmas time and can be served with a dessert wine, some liqueur or a cup of coffee – or even on their own!

The biscuits are a cross between a biscuit and a macaroon – they are crumbly and chewy at the same time. They are also perfect for those on a gluten free diet, as they don’t contain any flour and are instead made with ground almonds. The ground nuts provide a slight but delicious bitter taste. I add lemon zest for extra flavour, but you could also use orange zest instead. If you want to make a chocolate version, just add some cocoa powder to the mix when adding the ground almonds – the chocolate versions are extremely tasty and definitely worth a try.

Although these are really easy to make, you must ensure that you have left enough time – you need to start these the night before you cook them as the mixture needs to dry out overnight before baking. I always forget this and so my plans to bring some to work to share with my colleagues on our last day at work this year were quickly dashed when I realized this would involve me having to get up at least an hour earlier to cook these in the morning!

These keep well in an airtight container – although how long they stay depends on how quickly you eat them!

OTV Cuisine: Ricciarelli – Italian Almond Biscuits

Makes around 30 biscuits dependent on size


  • 2 large egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 225g caster sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence or extract
  • 300g ground almonds
  • icing sugar for dusting


  • Whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff and dry, then whisk in the sugar a little at a time until you reach a marshmallowy consistency

  • Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, almond essence and ground almonds and mix to a hard paste

  • If you are going to make chocolate biscuits, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder together with the ground almonds
  • Shape the mixture into small diamonds – dust your hands and the surface with icing sugar to stop the mixture from sticking
  • Lay on lined baking sheets and leave to dry out overnight

  • When ready to cook, heat the oven to 140°C and cook the biscuits for 25-30 minutes – they should be pale and slightly cracked
  • Make sure you do not overcook the biscuits, as they will become hard and very chewy when overcooked (having made this mistake a few times myself!)
  • When cool, dust with icing sugar and serve 

Photos: Amaka

Amaka de Vries

A self-proclaimed chocolate obsessed foodie passionate about all things gastronomic. Amaka loves reading and writing about food, cooking food and of course sampling food. She tries to travel as often as possible to discover new flavours and dishes and can usually be found in a kitchen somewhere between London or Lagos.

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