“Brutti ma buoni”, ugly but good: Italian vanilla hazelnut cookies. You will fall in love with these incredibly ugly cookies!

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Scrumptious “Brutti ma buoni” cookies from Piedmont, are the proof that often something good can originate from a coarse mistake- and you will in love with these tasty mistakes!

With just a few ingredients from your pantry (shell-fruit, sugar, egg whites, and some spices), you will surprise your guests.

This recipe doesn’t want any flour, nor butter; few ingredients for an amazing treat! They always turn out right, these cookies fit those who are not good at cooking, as I used to be when I took up this art: I could make only ugly dishes which tasted delicious. I managed just fine, when the result was unsightly, but the taste was passable.

“Brutti ma buoni”, ugly but good: Italian vanilla hazelnut cookies.
You will fall in love with these incredibly ugly cookies!

Similar to light meringues, they are made from shell-fruit (almonds, hazelnuts, …), “brutti ma buoni” are poor cookies which were born in the Northern Italy and have spread all around Italy: a few local variations haven’t spoilt the secret of their everlasting success: the simplicity. 

Whereas pastry chefs long for perfection, here we are going to bake ugly cookies! Yes, you have got it right! Ugly. They are shapeless, their color is not inviting at all- they don’t stand out in a pastry counter because they are not tempting indeed! When you are choosing your pastry cakes, you look at them, and almost pitiful, you think: “Ok. Let’s have few, just to try them!”- tasted once, you will never be able to do without them! One after the other you regret not having bought more!

Well, you will bake a flock of ugly ducklings, but they will result definitely scrumptious: a blast of taste! You just have to go beyond the first impression and then it is a done deal!

Why should you taste “brutti ma buoni” cookies?

Because of their crumbly and light texture, because they are delicious and easy to make. And because their crispy surface (as a meringue) hides a tender core; a real melt inn your mouth delicacy which gets crunchy when it meets coarsely chopped shell fruit grain!

brutti ma buoni

What do you have to do to bake these cookies?

It is a super easy recipe,and fast as well: it takes a few minutes to beat the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks (a sort of meringue), then add chopped shell-fruit and shape small cookies with a spoon. Bake: that’s all.

A few basic skills are needed and a stand mixer: the fate will shape your cookies!

I know, you are very good at cooking, you can take marvelous photos of your perfect wonderful preparations, but here put all your talent aside, because you have to bake the ugliest cookies ever: this is today’s challenge!

Be a step ahead

If you have whole shell fruit (not grains), try not to overheat the fruit when you chop it in the mixer. If the speed is too high and the process is too long, the fruit will release its oil which will get rancid; as a result your cookies will taste unpleasantly sour.

Keep in mind: they must be ugly but toothsome, they must not turn out ugly and unappetizing…so, cool down the bowl of the mixer or the shell fruit (put them into the freezer for a few minutes). Some pastry chefs also put the mixing bowl into the ice when they are working: it is a very important step. Anyway, pulse intermittently; the blades won’t heat the fruit too much.

brutti ma buoni

When can you eat them?

They deliciously paid with a perfumed tea at 5pm, or any moments of the day when you feel like eating something sweet and inviting. They also make a perfect present: they are always very welcomed…in spite of their shape!

“Brutti ma buoni”, ugly but good: Italian vanilla hazelnut cookies.

These are tempting treats even if you would never choose them because of their unattractive look. As light as a meringue, they hide a tender core with some crunchy coarsely chopped shell fruit grain. 
They are ready to make and keep fresh for long time: that’s the reason why they make a nice present, too. Are you ready for this irresistible treat? A short method, a surprising result! 
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword brutti ma buoni cookies, italian cookies
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 30 cookies


  • 150 gr toasted peeled hazelnuts or hazelnut grain 
  • 2 egg whites (about 60-70g)
  • 140 gr powdered sugar 
  • A tsp of vanilla powder or half a bean of vanilla


  • Take the egg out of the fridge and let them reach room temperate. Keep in mind: use only extra fresh whites, otherwise you won’t be able to beat them to stiff peaks; 
  • Crack the eggs and carefully separate the whites from the yolks (no trace of yolks must spoil the batter); put the whites into a stand mixer provided with the whisk attachment; 
  • Beat for 5-6 minuets until very stiff peaks: it should be fluffy, white, and thick. If it tents to deflate, add a drop of lemon; 
  • Sift in the powdered sugar while the stand mixer is running and hight speed, eventually add the vanilla; if you use the vanilla bean, split it down its length and scrape out the seeds of half bean;
  • Go on beating at medium speed until very stiff shiny peaks; it usually takes 2-3 minutes since you have added the sugar; 
  • Raise the whisk attachment, if the tips can stand straight up, the mixture is ready. If you can’t beat it at very stiff peaks, don’t worry, the cookies will be good, anyway (you don’t have to make it again). You may have used not extra fresh eggs. 
  • While the stand mixer is running, chop the hazelnuts into coarse irregular medium grains. If you have bought hazelnut grain add it to the egg whites directly; 
  • Turn off the stand mixer and preheat the static oven at 140°C (284°F); 
  • Fold in the hazelnut grains and gently combine with upwards movements not to deflate the compound until fluffy and thick;  
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper: using  two spoons, place walnut-size dollops of dough onto the tray; you don’t have to care about their shape, the more irregular, the better; 
  • Bake at 140°C (284°F) in the medium-high rack (they must get dry, not burnt) for about 15 minutes; when the surface starts cracking and the cookies get golden brown, decrease the temperature to 110°C (230°F) and bake for 30-35 minutes. 
  • After this time, decrease the temperate to 60°C (140°F) and let them dry for about 20 minutes with the half-closed oven door; 
  • Take the cookies out of the oven, let them cool down completely…close your eyes and enjoy these delicacies!  

A few variations you may try:

  • Replace hazelnuts with almonds; and you can’t imagine how exquisite unsalted pistachios make these cookies! Set your imagination free, and use all the unsalted shell-fruit to your taste! Chop it coarsely: your cookies will be super crunchy,
  • You may even mix a few kinds of shell-fruit: amazing taste!
  • Add cinnamon to your taste along with vanilla (I hate it, but if you are cinnamon addicted, you will get “brutti ma buoni” addicted, as well!);
  • Why don’t you try unsweetened cocoa powder (they will get ever much uglier): the method is slightly different because it needs cooking. Chop the almonds or the hazelnuts, then beat the egg whites to very stiff peaks- add sugar, cocoa powder, and shell-fruit. Pour the mixture into a pot any more and cook over medium heat stirring with a wooden spoon until it doesn’t stick to the side of the pot; remove from the heat and set aside for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally; place dollops of dough spaced well apart onto a baking tray lined with parchment; preheat the oven at 130°C (266°F) for about 25 minutes. 

How you can store brutti ma buoni

Store Brutti ma buoni cookies in an airtight container up to 10-15 days. You’d better not freeze them as they would lose their natural taste and crunchiness.

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