Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Tortelli di Mandorle e Pignoli alla Romana

Roman pastry shops abound with pastries, cakes, cookies, and confections made with almonds. Some of the world's best almonds come from nearby Sicily and they are widely used throughout Italy. This recipe is based on one for a larger tart that I tasted in Rome years ago. These are like rich little macaroons baked in a sweet crust, and they are perfect with a cup of espresso.

Twenty-four 2 1/2-inch tartlets


2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 10 pieces
2 teaspoons finely grated orange or lemon zest
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk or water


8 ounces canned almond paste, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) pine nuts
Confectioners' sugar for finishing

Twenty-four 2 1/2-inch tartlet pans and a jellyroll pan

  1. For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times to mix the butter in finely. Add the orange zest, yolks, and water and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Squeeze the dough into a rough cylinder, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it until chilled. You may keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before continuing.
  2. To make the tartlet shells, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured work surface. Gently knead the dough until it is smooth and malleable. Press the dough into a rough rectangle and use a knife or bench scraper to divide it into 3 pieces. Place one of the pieces on a floured work surface and press it into a square. Flour the dough and roll it to a 6-inch square. Use a 2 3/4- to 3-inch fluted cutter to cut the dough into rounds. As they are cut, fit them into the pans, using your thumbs to press them into the bottom and sides of the pans. Line up the lined pans on a jellyroll pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. After all the dough has been rolled, press the scraps together and roll them out to line the remaining pans. Refrigerate the crusts while preparing the filling.
  3. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  4. To make the filling, combine the almond paste, sugar, and 1 egg yolk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until the mixture begins to clump around the beater. Add the remaining egg yolk and beat the mixture smooth. Add the butter and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beater with a large rubber spatula. Beat in 1 egg on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the remaining egg and beat smooth. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Decrease the mixer speed to lowest and beat in the flour, just until it is absorbed.
  5. Pipe or spoon the almond filling into the prepared crusts, filling them about 3/4 full. Evenly scatter the pine nuts over the almond filling.
  6. Bake the tartlets until the dough is baked through and the filling and pine nuts are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool the tartlets on the pan on a rack.
  7. Remove the tartlets from the pans after they have cooled completely, using the point of a paring knife to ease them out.
  8. Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Serving: These are perfect with tea or coffee, or any time at all...

Storage: Keep the tartlets loosely covered with plastic wrap at room temperature before and after serving. For advance preparation, wrap well in plastic and freeze. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.