This picture was taken around 1950 with some of my grandmother’s siblings. From left to right: sister Jean [Barbaresi] Borrelli, sister Edith [Barbaresi] Piccolo, niece Terese Bontempo, sister-in-law Regina [Lipowski] Barbaresi, and brother Gerry Barbaresi. Notice the milk bottle and what appears to be an untouched piece of pie in the center of the table. What’s up with that?
While I was growing up, Edith lived with my grandmother, Dora [Barbaresi] Donroe, for some number of years. In her sixties at the time, Edith always struck me as a tornado of fury. It seemed best just to stay out of her way. But, I remember coming out of the woodwork for these pignoli (pine nut) cookies. They were totally worth it.
Edith shaped these into crescents, not an easy task with such a sticky dough. I never have any luck with this, and today was no different. I gave up halfway through and just dropped them in circles with the rationale that, who the hell cares? When I pulled them out of the oven, I saw that all of the crescents had transformed themselves into circles anyway, so it was like I didn’t even try. I’m not sure, but I think I heard her laughing.
Gluten-free peeps, this is the cookie for you. (Unless you’re allergic to nuts, too.) (In which case, man, that sucks.)
This moist and chewy Italian cookie is one of my all-time favorites.
1 lb. almond paste, crumbled finely
1 ½ cups sugar
3 egg whites
1 lb. pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Crumble the almond paste into tiny pieces. You can do this painstakingly by hand, or you can whiz it in the food processor in a flash. Your choice. With an electric mixer, beat the crumbled almond paste, sugar, and egg whites together until mixture fluffs up, about 2 minutes. Spoon ½ teaspoon dough, dip spoon upside down into pine nuts, and push dough onto baking sheet, nut side up. I find a regular teaspoon (as opposed to a measuring teaspoon) is easier to work with.
Bake until just golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Pull the foil off the pans to allow these cookies to cool while baking the rest. Be sure to reline the pans. Although the baked cookies may appear to be stuck to the foil, once they have cooled sufficiently, they can be gently peeled right off. Makes 50 cookies.
Edith [Barbaresi] Piccolo
West Haven, Connecticut
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