Karima Moyer-Nocchi

Culinary Historian, Author

Cutting a “bella figura” at the table was of paramount importance in 19th century Italy, as it could make or break your social standing. It required a delicate balance between conformity and flair. The middle class was slowly increasing in Italy, and those ascending the rung of that social ladder created a new market for cookbooks. Cookbook authors assumed the role of culinary social advisors, instructing middle class householders on how to shine while managing their budget.

These pistachio biscotti from the 1822 Il Cuciniere all’uso moderno fit perfectly within that scheme. They are delicate, crisp and airy, just right for breakfast, the afternoon merenda, or dipped in an after dinner liquore. These pale yellow wafers are speckled with green pistachios and complimented with candied citron, a popular ingredient in 19th century sweets. They are the essence of refinement and elegance and would have definitely made an impression at the table.

Pistachio and Citron Biscotti

(Watch the video above)


  • 300g unsalted pistachios (200g weight after removing skins; see note below), chopped
  • 5 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 225g sugar — divided 100g & 125g
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 250g flour
  • 100g candied chopped citron or ½ tsp lemon zest


  1. Boil the pistachios, 1 min. Remove and wrap in a tea towel, 3 min.
  2. Boil again, 1 min. Wrap in a towel and rub to loosen the peels.
  3. Dry the skinned nuts in a skillet on low.
  4. Whip the egg whites with 100g sugar as shown. Put in a large bowl.
  5. Whip the yolks with the 125g sugar and salt.
  6. Fold the yolks into the whites. Sift the flour onto the egg mix gradually and fold gently. Fold in nuts and citron.
  7. Transfer to a loaf pan prepared with buttered parchment. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 50-55 min.
  8. Cool and cut thin slices.
  9. Toast on 300°F for 15 min.
  10. When all are toasted, turn off the oven and put them all on a tray in the oven with the door ajar for one hour.

Note: The recipe calls for removing the skins from raw pistachios. This makes a significant difference to the taste and texture. You’d be surprised how much of the weight is made up in skins. for this recipe, start with an initial weight of 300g. Pistachios from Bronte are bright green and make for a visually attractive biscuit.