Kernel of Truth

Italian almond-flavored cookies inspire devotion for good reason. This article first appeared in the Kitchen section of our June/July 2014 issue as an accompaniment with Sophie Brickman's story, "Feast of Life."

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Ingalls Photography

Although most recipes for amaretti, the Italian version of macaroons, call for almonds, the original recipe included armellines, the kernels from inside apricot pits, whose rich flavor is akin to that of the fragrant bitter variety of nut. According to lore, a young couple whipped up the petite cookies off the cuff with sugar, the apricot kernels, and egg whites for the Cardinal of Milan when he paid a surprise visit to the Lombardy town of Saronno in 1718. The holy man was so enamored of the treats, which the bakers named amaretti (little bitter things), that he blessed their union. Our favorite version comes from the 126-year-old D. Lazzaroni & Company, which uses armellines to flavor the crunchy cookie and another of its products, the liqueur amaretto. Although Lazzaroni's mahogany-brown, pearl-sugar-speckled Amaretti di Saronno are delicious simply nibbled alongside an espresso, the cookies, which come tissue-wrapped in pairs and packaged in the iconic fire-engine-red tin, are also crumbled into desserts such as the Piedmontese amaretti peach tart and baked stuffed peaches to infuse them with a distinctive marzipan-like flavor.

Lazzaroni Amaretti, $19 for a 16 oz. tin at amazon.com