Sugar almonds, cooking lesson with zia Clara and Genziana 🍷

This week I’m delighted to share a lovely time with my extended family. From my last posts you probably already know that I’m spending the summer in Italy, where I’m enjoying meeting some dear friends and my large family. A few days ago I visited my aunt, zia Clara, who is my dad’s first cousin. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time and it was a very special moment! Zia Clara shared with me some precious memories about my grandmother, nonna Rita (yes, I was named after her!) and she treated us to mandorle zuccherate (sugar almonds). OMG! They were to die for! I didn’t want to miss the chance to learn how to make them myself, and Zia Clara had some spare almonds, which my cousin Fernanda, who lives in Bulgaria, brought her from Sofia. So we improvised a cooking lesson. Fantastic! It’s been this way for centuries: a wonderful example of handing down this precious knowledge from one generation to another, GRAZIE ZIA!


  • 400 g almonds
  • 400 g caster sugar
  • 6 spoons of water

To make this sweet treat, we need just 3 simple ingredients, which most households always have in the cupboard: the same amount of almonds and sugar (400 g of each) and a few spoons of water.

Pour the almonds, sugar and water in a large saucepan. Heat up the pan to medium heat. Stir and turn the almonds constantly (this is essential!). Keep boiling the water and sugar until all the water is evaporated and the sugar starts to get solid and powdery again. Don’t let the sugar melt too much, as we don’t want them caramelised.

When all the almonds have a nice, thin, brown layer of sugar all over, pour them all onto an oven tray and use a fork to separate them from each other so that they don’t stick together when they are cooled. Let the almonds cool off and enjoy, both children and grown-ups will love them!

From one generation to another, zia Clara‘s cooking lesson for me and my cousins Fernanda and Cristina.


This dessert (or snack), is also known as ‘sassolini d’Abruzzo’ or Abruzzo pebbles! In Abruzzo they are usually served at the end of the meal and I enjoyed them a couple of days ago with my lovely friend Alessandra. The sugar almonds are usually served after coffee and I think that the perfect pairing is with Genziana D’Abruzzo, a popular local spirit.

Genziana is a clear distilled alcoholic beverage originating in the mountains, produced from the roots of the gentian flower. It has a tart, sour taste but is still very pleasant to drink and absolutely perfect to balance the sweetness of the sugar almonds. Genziana d’Abruzzo is made with macerated roots (completely different from another one from Trentino, which is a distillate). It is a spirit of ancient traditions, even mentioned by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. I’ll post more information soon about this special spirit, so for now, enjoy it and – to be continued………  

You can buy Genziana d’Abruzzo HERE

‘…e forse tutti i roseti tralascerò per quella sola genziana aperta sul ciglio del campo come una gemma preziosa – perhaps I will give up all the rose gardens for one single gentian, open on the edge of the field like a precious gem’


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