Ricciarelli: Authentic Italian Almond Cookies from Siena

Ricciarelli: Authentic Italian Almond Cookies from Siena

Ricciarelli originated in Siena, a city in the Tuscany region of Italy, during the 14th century. These almond cookies draw their heritage from the Middle Eastern marzipan brought to Italy by crusaders and traders. Ricciardetto della Gherardesca, an Italian nobleman, is often credited with introducing them to Tuscany. The cookies gained popularity among the nobility due to their unique texture and taste, core elements that have remained unchanged for centuries. Historical records from Siena confirm that by the 15th century, Ricciarelli were already considered a delicacy.

Regional Variations

Different regions in Italy introduce slight modifications to Ricciarelli, enhancing their unique qualities. Tuscan bakers primarily use almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, giving the cookies a chewy yet crunchy texture. In contrast, regions like Sicily might incorporate additional citrus zest, providing a tangy flavor. Venetian recipes sometimes include cocoa powder, offering a richer taste. Despite these variations, Ricciarelli’s basic composition remains consistent, ensuring their fundamental almond flavor always shines through. These regional tweaks reflect Italy’s diverse culinary traditions while honoring the essential characteristics of the original Sienese cookie.

Ingredients and Preparation

Key Ingredients

Ricciarelli’s unique flavor comes from a few essential components:

  1. Almond Flour: Provides the rich, nutty base. Use blanched almond flour for the best texture.
  2. Granulated Sugar: Sweetens the dough. Use fine granulated sugar for even mixing.
  3. Egg Whites: Acts as a binder. Ensure they are at room temperature for better incorporation.
  4. Powdered Sugar: Coats the cookies and adds a delicate sweetness. Use it liberally before baking.
  5. Vanilla Extract: Adds subtle aromatic notes. Pure vanilla extract enhances the overall flavor.
  6. Orange Zest: Imparts a citrusy aroma. Freshly grated zest works best for this purpose.
  7. Baking Powder: Helps the cookies rise slightly. Ensure it’s fresh for consistent results.
  1. Mix Dry Ingredients: Combine almond flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix until well distributed.
  2. Incorporate Egg Whites: Whisk egg whites until frothy. Add to the dry mixture, stirring until a sticky dough forms.
  3. Add Flavorings: Mix in vanilla extract and orange zest. Ensure even distribution throughout the dough.
  4. Shape Cookies: Scoop tablespoon-sized portions of dough. Roll into balls and then flatten slightly into oval shapes.
  5. Coat with Powdered Sugar: Generously dust each cookie with powdered sugar, ensuring a thick coating.
  6. Prepare Baking Sheet: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the shaped cookies on the sheet, leaving space between each one.
  7. Preheat Oven: Set the oven to 325°F (160°C). Wait until it reaches the desired temperature before baking.
  8. Bake Cookies: Place cookies in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden.
  9. Cool and Serve: Remove from the oven. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve once fully cooled.

These steps ensure the perfect Ricciarelli texture and taste, combining influence from traditional Italian techniques with precise modern methods.

Nutritional Information

Dietary Considerations

Ricciarelli cater to a range of dietary preferences. These traditional Italian cookies are naturally gluten-free, making them suitable for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Using almond flour provides a protein boost, while egg whites contribute to the cookies’ light texture. However, if you’re on a low-sugar diet, note that Ricciarelli contain granulated and powdered sugar, which can affect blood sugar levels. Additionally, if you have nut allergies, Ricciarelli might not be suitable due to the almond flour.

NutrientAmount per Cookie (25g)
Total Fat5g
Total Carbohydrates12g

Serving and Pairing Suggestions

Best Serving Practices

Serve Ricciarelli at room temperature to ensure their soft texture and intense almond flavor shine. If you bake them fresh, let them cool completely on a wire rack before serving. For an elegant presentation, dust the cookies with additional powdered sugar just before serving. Arrange them on a tray lined with parchment paper for a clean, classic look. If stored, place them in an airtight container to maintain their freshness for up to two weeks.

Pairing Ideas with Beverages

Pair Ricciarelli with various beverages to enhance their flavor profile. Coffee, especially espresso, complements the almond taste and balances the cookies’ sweetness. For a traditional Italian experience, serve them with Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine from Tuscany. Herbal teas, like chamomile or mint, provide a lighter pairing option. Additionally, sparkling water with a lemon twist can refresh your palate between bites, letting you fully enjoy each cookie.


Exploring Ricciarelli unveils a rich tapestry of history and regional nuances that make these almond cookies a true Italian gem. Their unique texture and flavor, combined with their natural gluten-free composition, make them a delightful treat for many. Whether you stick to the traditional Tuscan recipe or experiment with regional variations, Ricciarelli promises an authentic taste of Italy. Serve them at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar, and paired with your favorite beverage to fully appreciate their delicate almond flavor. Enjoy the culinary journey that each bite of Ricciarelli offers.

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