Brutti ma Buoni are delicious Italian hazelnut meringue cookies that are made using just 4 simple ingredients.
They are crispy and crunchy, with a slightly chewy center. Pure perfection!
The Italian name Brutti ma Buoni literally translates to ugly but good in English. However, in the context of food, ‘buoni’ is better translated to delicious. I personally don’t think these Italian hazelnut meringue cookies are ugly, but they are seriously delicious!
Just like Baci di Dama or Bagna Cauda, Brutti ma Buoni cookies come from my husband’s region of Italy, Piedmont. This region of Italy is also the home of Nutella, so it is no surprise that these Brutti ma Buoni cookies are loaded with hazelnuts.
I know that you’re going to adore these Italian hazelnut meringue cookies! Not only do they require just 4 ingredients, but they are also the perfect excuse to use up any egg whites you have leftover from making my Gnocchi Carbonara. There’s never been a more frugal recipe that tastes this good!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Because it’s naturally gluten free!
- Only 4 ingredients are required to make these moorish Italian hazelnut meringue cookies.
- They last in an airtight container for at least two weeks (but possibly longer!) so you can make them in advance.
- The distinct Italian flavor with nutty hazelnuts and sweet meringue.
- These delicious cookies are perfect with an espresso for the perfect mid morning snack.
- If you’re looking for recipes for Christmas cookies, you can’t go past this one! Easy, can be made in advance and popular with adults and children alike!
For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card bottom of the page.
Table of Contents
- Whole hazelnuts - I prefer buying raw hazelnuts with their skin on because they are more economical. In my recipe below, I’ve included instructions to roast the hazelnuts and remove their skins. If you’d like to skip this step feel free to buy the ready roasted and blanched hazelnuts.
- Sugar - Granulated sugar (also known as fine or castor sugar) is best for this this recipe because it will easily dissolve.
- Egg whites - Only the egg whites are used to make these Italian Hazelnut Meringue Cookies. You could use any leftover egg yolks to make my Zuppa Inglese or Torta Della Nonna.
- Salt - just a pinch of salt to bring out the hazelnut flavors here.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Spread the hazelnuts out onto a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes in a preheated oven. Remove from the oven and rub the skin off the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Allow to cool.
- In a food processor, place the hazelnuts and half of the sugar.
- Pulse until the hazelnuts are chopped but not super fine. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg whites and salt until foamy and white. Gradually add the remaining sugar while whisking.
- Whisk until it forms thick and stiff peaks.
- Fold in the ground hazelnuts and sugar mixture.
- Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and set over medium heat. While the mixture is cooking and thickening, stir continuously. You may need to turn the heat down as the mixture cooks, thickens and darkens. Take care that it doesn’t burn at the bottom.
- Remove from the heat and work quickly. Scoop up teaspoonfuls of the mixture and push onto the baking sheet with a second teaspoon forming clumps of the cookie batter.
Bake in a slow oven until the cookies are dry.
- You could use almonds instead of hazelnuts or even do half hazelnuts and half almonds.
- If you’d like to skip a step in this recipe, purchase ready blanched and roasted hazelnuts.
- To add a chocolatey warmth to the Italian Hazelnut Meringue Cookies, fold in 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the beaten egg whites when adding the nuts. Just be sure to pass it through a sieve first.
- Why not add some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or cloves? Or a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract.
- For added indulgence, dip the cookies in melted chocolate and leave them to sit on non-stick parchment paper to set.
A food processor will help chop the hazelnuts quickly, but if you don’t have one you can chop them by hand. Have a look at the photo in my instructions to see how finely the hazelnuts should be chopped.
Brutti ma Buoni can keep well in an airtight container for two weeks. When they are freshly made, these delicious cookies will be more crispy and crunchy. However, at the two week stage they might be a little chewier - which is not a bad thing!
Tips for Success and FAQ’s
Be careful not to chop the hazelnuts and sugar too much in the food processor as you could make hazelnut butter instead! Some coarsely chopped nuts together with more finely chopped nuts are exactly what you’re looking for.
To make beautiful foamy egg whites, you need a very clean bowl to whisk them in. Even the slightest bit of residual oil or any fat in the bowl can prevent your egg whites from becoming thick and foamy. For this reason, I recommend using a stainless steel bowl because it is less porous.
Another trick to getting the best volume out of egg whites is to have them at room temperature.
Take care while cooking the meringue mixture. You want it to be not too hot (as it can burn the mixture) but not too cold (or nothing will happen). Don’t leave the saucepan unattended! You need to continuously stir the mixture as it cooks.
Brutti ma Buoni are Italian hazelnut meringue cookies that originate from the Piedmont region of Italy. Literally, the name translates to ugly but good in Italian. The description ‘good’ in the context of food is better translated as delicious in English. So really, these cookies are best described as ugly but delicious!
Yes! I recommend freezing these cookies in an airtight container with parchment paper separating the layers.
To defrost the cookies, be careful not to let condensation form on them, as the moisture will ruin them. You can do this by transferring the cookies to the refrigerator to defrost slowly.
Once they are cool but not frozen, take them out of the refrigerator and let them defrost slowly on the counter. Be sure to leave the Brutti ma Buoni cookies sealed in the container, as it will protect them from developing too much condensation as they defrost.
There are some recipes that skip this step entirely and simply bake the raw scoops of mixture in the oven as you would with individual meringues.
I personally don’t think this brings out the same depth of flavor as it does when you cook and caramelize the mixture in the saucepan. It also transforms these Brutti ma Buoni into cookies rather than just a regular hazelnut meringue.
I love to serve these crunchy cookies as part of a big Italian feast. First I start with my Italian Sausage Meatballs served with pasta and my Grissini breadsticks. Then I finish with some fresh fruit and my Mango Ice Cream before finally serving my Brutti ma Buoni cookies with coffee.
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Brutti ma Buoni Recipe
- 2 cups (250 grams) whole hazelnuts
- 1 ¼ cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Spread the hazelnuts out onto a baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant and the skins are beginning to split.
- Rub skin off the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. Separate the hazelnut from the skins. Allow to cool.
- Line two large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, place the hazelnuts and half of the sugar. Pulse until the hazelnuts are chopped but not super fine. Set aside.
- Place the egg white and salt in a very clean bowl and whisk until foamy and white.
- Gradually add the remaining sugar while whisking.
- Whisk until thick and creamy and stiff peaks form.
- Fold in the ground hazelnuts and sugar mixture.
- Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and set over the heat.
- Cook, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens and darkens in color. Start over a medium high heat then turn the heat down to medium low heat as the mixture cooks. Take care that it doesn’t burn at the bottom.
- Remove from the heat and work quickly with two teaspoons. Scoop up teaspoonfuls of the mixture and with the other spoon push the mixture off onto the baking sheet forming clumps of the cookie batter. Allow space between each for slight puffing.
- Bake at 300ºF/150ºC for 20-25 minutes or until dry.
- If using the food processor to chop the hazelnuts, be careful not to over process. There should be some coarsely chopped nuts as well as finely chopped nuts.
- Grease and fat prevent eggs whites beating up well so check that the bowl is perfectly clean.
- Have the egg whites at room temperature for the best volume.
- Take care when cooking the meringue. Stir constantly and adjust the temperature as needed.
Nutritional Information Per Serving
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.