Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
Cookies with Nuts
bianca neve Molisani almond cookies
Mary's Bianca Neve (Molisani Almond Cookies, flourless, using egg whites, sugar and slivered roasted almonds)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Weddings and First Holy Communions
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (variation on her Zia Teresa's recipe)

Printer Friendly Version


New & Improved Version (2013)*
2 (extra large) egg whites (together in one bowl)
1 (extra large) egg white (in a separate bowl)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet almond extract
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups slivered almonds (without skin), lightly roasted

Original Version (2010)
4 (extra large) egg whites
2 cups sugar
2 cups blanched almonds, roasted and chopped

*makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies (as many paper baking cups are needed)


New & Improved Version (2013)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Roast the blanched, slivered almonds until golden brown -- about 8 minutes in a 300 F degrees oven (If the almonds are under-roasted they lack flavor, and if the almonds are over-roasted the almonds get burnt, so one has to keep an eye on them.).

Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks (reserve egg yolks for use in other recipes).

Place two egg whites in a bowl.

Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the egg whites.

Using an electric beater beat the two egg whites until frothy (about 2 minutes).

Add sugar gradually (about a tablespoon at a time), beating thoroughly after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks are formed (about 5 minutes).

In a separate bowl mix the third egg white with the sweet almond extract. Beat a little by hand.

Add the third egg white (almond extract mixed in) to the beaten egg whites and sugar mixture.

Using an electric mixer, beat vigorously for two or three more minutes (this should help get a "light & airy" texture to the mixture).

Fold in roasted, slivered almonds (Do not use an electric beater but do it manually).

Place around 2 1/2 dozen small-sized paper baking cups on a cookie sheet.

Add about 1 1/4 tablespoon of the cookie batter in each paper baking cup.

Bake in a preheated 275 F degrees oven until the cookies are ready -- about 25 minutes. The cookies should be hard to the touch, and yet have retained a white-colored exterior. If they are soft inside, keep in the oven for a few minutes longer, reducing the heat to 200 degrees F.

Remove from oven.


Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Original Version (2010)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Beat egg whites and slowly add the sugar (about 1 tablespoon at a time) until stiff peaks are formed.

Fold in the almonds.

Drop one to one and half tablespoons of the cookie batter onto paper baking cups placed in muffin pan.

Bake in a 275 degrees F oven until the cookies are done about 25 to 35 minutes depending on the amount of batter used (The cookies should feel hard to the touch, but have retained a whitish color).


Molise's famous "bianca neve" cookies are never easy to make. Sometimes they come out alright, and sometimes the inside of the cookies is mushy, or the exterior of the cookies gets browned. The good news is that the cookies are not expected to have a uniform round shape, nor are they expected to have a smooth surface. The charm of these cookies comes from the fact that they don't all look alike. The cookies are expected to open up a little and appear cracked. These cookies are not like your average French-style meringue almond cookies whose centers are soft, these cookies are hard to the touch, and when eaten, break up into tiny hard pieces. Many Molisani who grew up on this treat love these cookies precisely because they are not soft, but others who are used to French-style ones, don't like them at all for this same reason. As noted "Bianca Neve" cookies are difficult to make because they are supposed to get hard, but they are not supposed to get browned. The name of the cookie, after all is "bianca neve" meaning as white as snow. Prior to World War II they were generally only served at weddings and First Holy Communions, and that's one of the reason the color of the cookies mattered (The bride back then did wear white, as those who made their First Holy Communions). Because I associate "bianca neve" with special events from my eary childhood, I have a strong attachment to them. My late aunt, Zia Teresa, was the one whose task was to make these cookies. I have fond memories of her making these cookies on Chabot street in Montreal; in the early 1960s she did not yet own an egg beater so she beat the egg whites and sugar by hand -- the process took about an hour. She used two forks to beat the eggs and sugar, and then to test if the stiff mountain peak had been achieved she placed one of the forks in the center. If the fork did not fall but stayed inside the bowl upright, then the egg whites and sugar were beaten properly. Also, back then, one could not buy blanched slivered almonds, so she boiled the raw almonds in water for a few minutes and then removed the skin with a napkin, adding, I guess, another 1/2 to the process. After that she had to cut the almonds; as there were no electric choppers, she quartered the nuts with a knife. Making these cookies took a whole afternoon, with or without the help from other family members. In any case as "bianca neve" are my favorite cookies on the planet, earth, I have tried different versions -- the ingredients are always the same: egg whites, roasted almonds and sugar, but I tried varying the amount of ingredients used. Sometimes changing the proportions doesn't make much difference, and sometimes it does. I never had to throw out the cookies I made (Sugar & roasted almonds are good any which way, but sometimes I couldn't offer them to guests). In any case I can't say which version of the two presented in this entry is better. Both recipes seem, on the most part, to produce a good Molisani almond cookie. Making them in paper baking cups is always a good idea regardless of what version of the recipe one uses. Making the cookies as small as possible (using 1 teaspoon of batter per paper cup) can also help guarantee success as then the cookies need less baking time -- the only problem with the bite-sized version of these cookies is that they don't look all that nice (They look more like candy balls than almond cookies). If one is lucky, one gets the right-sized cookie with the right taste. North American cooks might argue luck has nothing to do with it. It's all about getting the right recipe and following the instructions to the letter. Well, I beg to differ, as sometimes the exact same recipe comes out just fine, and sometimes it doesn't. Possibly my aunts were right -- it all depends on the weather. That's the one factor that one has no control over, unless, of course, one is making the cookies at some factory where weather is not an issue. Then again factory-made cookies have a lot of additives, so maybe it's not the fact that factory chefs can control the temperature in the room, but that they have the option to enhance or imitate flavors. Home cooks also have the option of adding flavors, but at least, they also can (if they are lucky enough to have the funds for it) opt for "natural" products. Natural flavors cost a fortune, and whether they are worth it is hard to say. In any case, most home cooks can figure out what works for them, and proceed accordingly. Comments and photo: Mary Melfi

Back to main list