Biscotti Natale ~

Italian Christmas Cookies

Italians might be famous for being frugal, but when it comes to holidays, all the stops are pulled out! And Nonna is no exception. Here is her recipe for classic Biscotti Natale: Chocolate, Amaretto, Hazelnut, and Almond Cookies. Extravagant because it uses two kinds of nuts, chocolate and amaretto liqueur ~ yum, all the way around. This will definitely be something different at your upcoming cookie swap. [These biscotti are only cooked once ~ traditional biscotti are baked twice ~ which makes these “cookies” softer than the usual coffee-dunking biscotti.]

Biscotti Natale

2 cups almonds, blanched, skins removed & toasted

2 cups hazelnuts, toasted & skins removed

10 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

10 1/2 tablespoons lard (shortening may be substituted)

4 eggs

3/4 cup amaretto liqueur

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 1/3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

5 3/4 to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roughly chop the skinless, toasted almonds and hazelnuts. Set aside.

Place the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Melt the butter and lard together in a small pan over medium heat. Pour the warm, melted butter mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and well combined with the butter mixture.  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the eggs, amaretto and vanilla, beating until well combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugar and baking powder.  Add the egg mixture, stirring until well combined.  Next, add the chocolate mixture, stirring until well combined. Stir in the chopped nuts, distributing evenly throughout.

Add the flour in 2-cup batches, stirring until well combined between each addition, reserving the final 1/4 cup of flour. The dough should be moist but able to retain a shape when formed. If it is too soft, add the final 1/4 cup of flour.

Place a quarter of the dough on a clean hard surface and, using your hands, form into a 1/2-inch-thick slab of dough. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter cut out the biscotti. Reshape the scraps into another 1/2-inch-thick slab and cut additional biscotti until all the dough is used.

Place the biscotti on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the biscotti are slightly hard on the outside yet still retain their shape and are soft on the inside. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 6 1/2 dozen cookie-shaped “biscotti.”

Biscotti Natale making video

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[Note: I shot this video in my hotel room in Denver, 2010, while working on a show. If I can bake these cookies in a hotel room toaster oven, think how successful you will be using an oven!]

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale!


Just in time for “e-reader” holiday gift giving ~ “Beyond the Pasta” is now available on Kindle, Nook and iBooks! Now you can take Nonna and her recipes with you wherever you go!

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.