Sicilian Pizzicotti (Baking Around the World #1)

🎄☃️✨ Welcome to Day 7 of Blogmas At Home! It’s 18 days until Christmas and the halls are well and truly DECKED. ✨☃️🎄

Confession: I am… not a big travel person. I mean, this whole blog is literally called Gemma at Home because of the sheer amount of time I spend not travelling. However, I do think witnessing, experiencing and making an attempt to understand cultures other than your own is incredibly important. While travelling to different countries and immersing yourself in their respective cultures is the most obvious way of doing this, it’s not the only way. I think, sometimes, people look down on the idea of learning about other cultures via less ‘real life’ methods- things like reading books and articles, watching videos or even engaging in certain activities. I know these techniques can’t provide as comprehensive an understanding of a culture as firsthand experience, but that doesn’t mean they are not effective sources in their own right- especially for those who aren’t in a position get that firsthand experience for themselves.

The point of this whole spiel, ultimately, is to introduce a new series on the blog: Baking Around the World. Food is such an intrinsic part of so many cultures- I love hearing about the stories and traditions surrounding food across the globe. In Baking Around the World, I want to explore some new recipes, try some new tasty bakes and learn about the history of each one as I go. I may not be much good at travelling, but I do love to bake. This is my own, more accessible version of experiencing new cultures (and testing out some tasty snacks that I have never tried before!).

Before we begin, let me just throw out a few disclaimers: obviously, I will not be any sort of expert on any of these recipes- I’m just giving them a try. As part of the process, I will be doing lots of research on the recipes- I’ll list the sources I have referenced for the bakes at the end of each post, as well as sharing some of what I have found in my research throughout. While I will be providing the final recipe I end up using in the posts, I am (obviously) not going to be claiming the recipes as my own- just sharing the ingredients/methods I used to make my version of them. Finally, my bakes are unlikely to be super authentic- recipes vary based on region, my research may go awry, I might be limited by the ingredients available to me here in the UK. Please, go easy on me! I’m just a girl who loves sweet snacks.

Right then, let’s get into our first bake, shall we? We’re heading to Sicily for this one…

Table of Contents

Pizzicotti: Explained

In my research, I was surprised to discover that pizzicotti are not actually a flavour of cookie, but a shape. Pizzicotti means ‘little pinches’ in Italian and these cookies are shaped by, quite literally, pinching the dough- hence the name. The cookies themselves are almond cookies, known, in their unshaped form, as pasticcini di mandorla (or mandorle – I’m fairly certain that mandorla is the singular form of ‘almond’, while mandorle is the plural. Which one is grammatically accurate in this context- I am unsure).

I actually stumbled upon some cookies with the same scalloped shape as pizzicotti in a (quite fancy) farm shop recently- you can see them in the photo above. These cookies are labelled as amaretti, though they look more like the pizzicotti/pasticcini di mandorla than the amaretti I have seen. Upon further research, I think pasticcini di mandorla are a Sicilian variation of amaretti– made using sweet (as opposed to bitter) almonds and no apricot kernels. If you have had the amaretti that they sell in stores here in the UK before, these pizzicotti are very different- they are much paler in colour and have a much softer texture.

Pizzicotti Ingredients

To make pizzicotti, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Clementine

Pizzicotti are often ‘scented’ with citrus (though you can also use alcohol, vanilla or something else along those lines), so I decided to use clementine zest, like in Giuseppe Dell’Anno (of Bake Off fame)’s recipe (see the end of this post for source references). Honestly, I’m still not sure what makes a clementine different from a satsuma or a tangerine, but I’m pretty sure any of them will work in this recipe. You could even use orange zest, just make sure to only use the zest of about half an orange (clementines/satsumas/tangerines are much smaller!)- otherwise the flavour might overwhelm the almond taste.

  • Ground almonds

There is no flour in these cookies, just ground almonds. This means that the cookies have a lovely almond-y flavour and, as a bonus, they’re also gluten-free!

  • Caster sugar

Some recipes use icing sugar for their pizzicotti, but the majority seem to use caster sugar. I’ve gone with caster sugar here.

  • Egg whites

This recipe doesn’t use the yolks, so you can save them for a different recipe.

  • Almond extract

This is just to amp up the almond flavour a little- I’ve actually decreased it slightly from the original recipe because I felt it was fighting a little too much with the clementine flavour, but you can use the original amount (1 teaspoon) if you prefer.

  • Honey

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of the honey is in the recipe, but it seems to be a fairly standard edition across the pizzicotti recipes I’ve found. I’d love to know whether it helps to bind the mixture or adds sweetness/flavour- or maybe even both?

  • Icing sugar

This is what gives the pizzicotti their iconic snowball-esque appearance- the balls of dough are rolled in icing sugar before baking, making them all snowy (and extra tasty).

Making Pizzicotti

The traditional method of making pizzicotti involves a bowl, a spoon and good old-fashioned elbow grease. When I first tried these out, I followed Giuseppe Dell’Anno’s recipe, where he uses a food processor instead. I’ve tried both methods now, and I actually prefer the food processor method for a couple of reasons:

  • While pizzicotti are by no means taxing to make by hand, energy is not something that I have a lot of. I love recipes that I can make in a stand mixer/food processor, because I can still enjoy making them when I’m feeling particularly tired.
  • Processing the sugar and almonds helps to break them down a little, making your pizzicotti a little smoother. I found that the pizzicotti I made by hand were a little grainier, which wasn’t unpleasant, but was noticeable.

Basically, you can make these either way. I do prefer the texture of the pizzicotti made in the food processor, but I also wonder if the grainier texture of the handmade cookies is more authentic? Nevertheless, it’s up to you which method you choose.

Start by preheating your oven to 180°C and lining a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Then, make the dough…

To make the pizzicotti in the food processor, place the clementine zest, ground almonds and caster sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Blitz for a few seconds until well combined.

Add the egg whites, almond extract and honey, then pulse until the dough comes together.

Tip the dough out onto a clean work surface, lightly dusted with icing sugar to help prevent it from sticking, then knead into a smooth ball. The dough will be very sticky- that’s how it should be! The dough is now ready to divide and shape.

If you would like to make the pizzicotti by hand, just put all of the ingredients (bar the icing sugar) into a large bowl.

Mix with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together, then use your hands to knead the dough into a smooth ball. The dough is now ready to divide and shape.

To form the pizzicotti, split the dough into 26 pieces (each piece will be about 25g). Roll each piece of dough between your hands to form a ball.

Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, then drop the ball in and roll it around until it is completely coated in the sugar. I like to shape all of the balls first, then roll each one in the icing sugar, but you can do them one at a time if you prefer.

Once you have all of your icing sugar-covered balls, you need to pinch them to make them into pizzicotti!

Using your thumb, index finger and third finger, gently pinch each ball- you’re aiming for a kind of rounded triangle shape with a scalloped pattern on top, as in the photos. Don’t worry about it too much though- they’ll taste delicious no matter what!

Once you have shaped all of your pizzicotti, bake them in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until they have turned slightly golden and a few cracks have appeared. Let them cool completely on the tray, then serve at room temperature.

The pizzicotti will keep for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, if stored in an airtight container.

Final Thoughts

I am a BIG fan of these cookies. They taste exactly like you would imagine softly baked marzipan tastes, but with an extra hit of clementine flavour, which makes them feel extra Christmassy. I love their snowy-white and powdery coating, as well as their scalloped shape. They’re also incredibly easy to make, which is perfect for this busy time of year! I think these might just be a new favourite cookie recipe for me- I just know I’ll be making them again and again and again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first post in my Baking Around The World series and Day 7 of Blogmas At Home! I have a few more recipes lined up, so keep an eye out for those. I’ll see you tomorrow for Day 8!






These Sicilian almond cookies, called Pizzicotti ('little pinches') for their indented shape, are flavoured with clementine zest and rolled in icing sugar before baking.
Course Snack
Cuisine Italian
Keyword almond, clementine, Cookie, pizzicotti
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes
Servings 26 cookies


  • zest of 1 unwaxed clementine (see Note 1).
  • 250 g ground almonds
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 40 g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting.


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then place the sifted icing sugar into a small bowl, ready for coating the pizzicotti. Set both aside for later.
  • Place the clementine zest, ground almonds and caster sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine the ingredients and break down the sugar and almonds a little.
  • Add the egg whites, almond extract and honey to the food processor, then pulse until the mixture starts to come together into a sticky dough. Remove the dough from the food processor and transfer to a clean work surface, lightly dusted with icing sugar, then knead gently with your hands until it forms a smooth ball. You can shape and bake the pizzicotti immediately, or you can wrap the dough in cling film at this stage and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • To shape the pizzicotti, take a small amount of the dough (about 25g) and roll it between your hands to make a ball. Drop the ball into the bowl of icing sugar, then roll it around until it is completely coated. Place the pizzicotti onto the baking tray, then use your thumb, index and middle fingers to gently pinch the ball and give the cookie its characteristic shape. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, spacing them out slightly on the tray (they don't spread hugely, but do give them a little room to grow- if in doubt, use a second tray).
  • Bake the pizzicotti in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies (underneath all of the icing sugar!) have turned golden and are slightly cracked. Let them cool completely before removing them from the tray and serving. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the pizzicotti will keep for up to two weeks.


  1. I used clementine zest to make these pizzicotti extra Christmassy, but you could use lemon or orange zest to flavour your pizzicotti, or even omit the extra flavouring, if you prefer.
Recipe adapted from ‘Clementine and almond cookies’ by Giuseppe Dell’Anno, from Olive Magazine (Christmas 2023, p.42).

Sources Used

Giuseppe Dell’Anno‘s ‘Clementine and almond cookies’ for Olive Magazine, ‘Christmas 2023’, p.42.

Cooking with Manuela: Italian Almond Cookies

Italian Recipe Book: Italian Almond Cookies

Italy Magazine: Pasticcini di Mandorla

Marisa’s Italian Kitchen: Pasticcini di Mandorle

Rachel Eats: Pasticcini di Mandorle

Quatro Fromaggio and Other Disgraces on the Menu: Amaretti and Amaretto


  1. Ambermoggie says:

    Fabulous idea to add to my Yuletide hampers thank you Gemma

    1. Thank you- I think they’ll be a lovely addition to your hampers!

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