Biscotti di Nero d’Avola

Biscotti di Nero d' Avola

The holidays are coming and it is time to think about tiny treats. For an afternoon snack, an accompaniment to an after-dinner glass of wine, or tidbits for surprise drop-in guests, these biscotti are perfect. These little cookies bear a distinct resemblance to Sicily’s famous Biscotti di Regina, but they have a lot more going for them. Not too sweet, they are made with olive oil rather than butter or shortening, and they are perfumed with Nero d’Avola, one of my favorite wines. Cinnamon and white pepper provide added warmth and depth of flavor, while accenting the spice notes of the wine.

Flour AssortmentI tried making these with various flours – pastry, cake, American all-purpose flour, and with Italy’s tipo 00 (doppio zero – Italy’s finely milled wheat flour), plus various combinations. I preferred the texture of the cookies made entirely with tipo 00 flour; they had a tenderness and lightness that the others lacked. Note that the designation tipo 00 refers to a finely milled flour – not to its protein content, nor necessarily to the strain of wheat used to make the flour. (In the U.S., flour protein contents, along with the types of wheat, are generally classified by the way the flour will be used – pastry, cake, all-purpose, and finally, coming in at the “strongest”, bread flour.) The Italian cook has available a wide array of flours – many strains of wheat, many protein levels and various grinds. It can be somewhat confusing, but most of the tipo 00 flour available for purchase in the U.S. can be used interchangeably with our all-purpose flour. Italian markets and delis sell it, and Amazon has quite a number of different brands. Antimo Caputo, a brand I often use, is available from Olio2go. However, if you have only American all-purpose flour, go ahead and make these biscotti. They’re a delight no matter what you use.

Nero d'AvolaNero d’Avola wine lends the cookies spice and depth of flavor along with a slightly dark color. This is one of Sicily’s most important wines, and has come into its own over the last few years. The nero d’avola grape (black grape of Avola), from which the wine is made, thrives in the arid climate of Sicily, particularly in the south near the town of Avola, the same area where Sicily’s famous almonds are grown. While the grape’s cultivation was originally confined to the southeast, today it is grown across the region. The wine is widely available in the United States, and in all price ranges. You can certainly spend a lot, and you’ll enjoy it if you do, but know that this is an affordable, delicious wine, no matter the cost, with many bottles available for less than ten dollars.

To hear the proper pronunciation of the wine (and the grape) click to go to Jeremy Parzen’s delightful Italian Grape Name & Appellation Pronunciation Project.

Ravida Extra Virgin Olive OilTo be honest, you’ll spend more on the olive oil. I suggest you go local and use a Sicilian extra virgin olive oil for these cookies. I used Ravida olive oil, one of my favorites. The light green oil is intensely fruity and has a bit of pepperiness, making it perfect here. The cookies will only be as good as the ingredients you use to make them, and believe me, the oil counts. A lot. Plus, once you make the cookies you will be left with some superior oil. If you have never tried Sicilian olive oil, you are in for a treat. The oils are beautiful to look at, ranging in color from yellow to green, depending on the olives used to make them. They are full of flavor. Ravida extra virgin olive oil is available from Olio2go.

Biscotti di Nero d'Avola

Biscotti di Nero d’Avola

makes 28 biscotti

1 ½ cups tipo 00 flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch of fine sea salt
¼ cup Nero d’Avola wine
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, such as Ravida
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar *see Cook’s Note
(if not using vanilla sugar, add ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract)
½ cup sesame seeds

Biscotti di Nero d'Avola

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position the rack in the center of the oven, Place the sesame seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast until light golden, about 10 minutes, stirring three times to promote even toasting. Be careful you do not burn the seeds. Remove them from the oven, and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, white pepper, and sea salt. Set aside. Fit a standing mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the extra virgin olive oil and vanilla sugar together until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes on high speed. Add vanilla extract, if using.

Remove the whisk attachment and replace it with the flat beater. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the wine, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Increase to medium speed and beat until the mixture comes together.

Use a tablespoon measure or scoop to form the dough into balls. Press and pinch the dough to elongate and into 1½ inch logs with slightly tapered edges. (Alternately you can form the dough into balls to make round cookies.) Dampen each cookie with water (a spray mister works well for this), and roll in toasted sesame seeds to coat. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of a 350 degree F. oven about 22 minutes, until firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Biscotti di Nero d'Avola

Cook’s Note: Vanilla sugar has become staple in my kitchen. I use it in almost all of my baked goods. The sugar is infused with the subtle perfume of vanilla and lends its exotic flavor to everything from baked goods to beverages. To make it, pour the contents of one container of C&H Baker’s sugar (a finely ground white granulated sugar) into an airtight container. Use a paring knife to split 2 vanilla beans lengthwise. Open the vanilla beans, pressing them flat on the counter, exposing the seeds inside. Place the edge of the knife blade against the top of the open bean, and pressing gently, move it down the length of the bean, scraping the seeds from the interior. Drop the seeds into the sugar. Repeat with the remaining vanilla bean. With your fingertips, rub the seeds into the sugar to disperse them throughout. Add the scraped vanilla beans, and cover for up to 2 weeks. Add more sugar or vanilla as needed. For stronger vanilla flavor, add more vanilla beans and seeds. Vanilla sugar will keep indefinitely. It may clump, just break the clumps prior to measuring.

For another take on Italian wine cookies, check out the Tozzetti at Domenica Cooks.

Biscotti di Nero d'Avola

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  1. Comment by Abbe@This is How I Cook:

    Just came across your sweet little cookie. Loved your thoughts on flour and olive oil. I’ve been lookin for a really green fruity oo and this sounds like it might fill the bill. thanks!

  2. Comment by Emilie@TheCleverCarrot:

    I have so many things to say, I don’t even know where to begin! First, anything sesame strikes an emotional chord as I grew up on Italian semolina bread and sesame cookies from the Mona Lisa bakery in Brooklyn (my dad’s neck of the woods). I loved the subtle sweetness of those cookies so I know I would appreciate your recipe. Oh, and the cinnamon and white pepper? DIVINE. As for the olive oil, love Ravida. I used to work in olive oil sales (I think I mentioned this previously) and we would literally wait at the door for the new shipment to arrive. A beautiful olive oil indeed. Adri, this post is wonderful and you’ve got me thinking about the holidays. This recipe would be a lovely addition! PS- I’ve just started my vanilla sugar too!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Emilie,

      Thank you so much for the very thoughtful message. I just love sesame cookies – they really are wonderful. I could not resist adding the white pepper, and it turned out to be such a nice complement to the Nero d’Avola. It’s the time of year for cinnamon, other spices and vanilla sugar. In fact, I have started using vanilla sugar for almost everything. Just opening the container is a joy. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! Alla prossima!

  3. Comment by nancy at good food matters:

    Hi Adri, this cookies remind me of my friend Paulette’s Biscotti Regina, which she learned from her Sicilian mother–although yours are more complex with the addition of white pepper and red wine! I know that these must taste so very good.

  4. Comment by Tricia @ Saving room for dessert:

    These are lovely! I know I would not be able to stop eating them. I’ll save this for the holidays!

  5. Comment by Tandy | Lavender and Lime:

    I am going to add these to my list of things to bake in December when I am on leave. They really sound tasty, and I love the background information on all the ingredients 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Tandy,

      I hope you enjoy them. Baking with olive oil really is surprisingly great. Somehow in America, everything has to be made with butter, but once you get outside that box, a whole world opens up. I hope you have a wonderful leave!

  6. Comment by Cathy at Wives with Knives:

    What an interesting post, Adri. Your little biscotti look delicious with all those wonderful ingredients. I visited Sicily years ago and have fond memories of my brief time there. I’m intrigued by your comments about tipo 00 flour and would love to try it.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Cathy,

      Sicily is the crossroads of the world – so many influences and so many foods. I hope you give these cookies a go. As for the flour, it really is a treat. It is extremely finely milled, and you will feel the difference the moment it falls through your fingers. Try it with pasta. I bet you will enjoy working with it. Thanks for stopping by. Alla prossima!

  7. Comment by Kelly @ Trial and Eater:

    These are so adorable! I’d love to serve these with coffee.

  8. Comment by Susan:

    These sound like delightful little treats, Adri, and so full of flavor and tenderness. I have had a hard time locating the tipo 00 flour and had never thought to buy it on Amazon. Great tip!

    • Comment by Adri:

      HI Susan,

      These really are tasty. And you’ll have no trouble getting the tipo 00 on Amazon. Antimo Caputo is a great one, but I absolutely adore 5 Stagione brand. Happy hunting and buon appetito!

  9. Comment by marcela:

    Oh! These biscotti look so scrumptious! I’m dying to taste them. I love Italian cuisine, biscuits and all treats they produce. I’m pretty sure that your recipe is also great! I’m adding it to my to-do list!

  10. Comment by Kitchen Belleicious:

    I love that these are covered with crunchy sesame seeds. It takes them to a whole other level! They look amazing!

  11. Comment by David:

    These look amazing, Adri! I have some “00” flour that is actually milled here in Arizona. I wan to try the cookies with that and also with some “00” flour from Italy. That will be a fun test! I will also have to check out the Ravida olive oil. It’s new to me!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi David,

      The 00 flour really is nice to use for these biscotti, It lends a crisp character that is lacking with regular all-purpose flour. I did not know that it is made in Arizona. I would love to purchase some. You will love the Ravida oil. It, like so many Sicilian oils, is really superb. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Comment by Dedy@Dentist Chef:

    Damn delicious biscuits!!!
    just perfect for brunch snacking…

  13. Comment by Hannah:

    These are truly some special little treats, and they sound perfect for me! I’ve been baking with olive oil more than ever and adore that bright, peppery flavor it tends to add. I absolutely must try your recipe next. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Hannah,

      I just love to bake with olive oil. It really is a revelation. And try Domenica’s version too. There is a link at the bottom of my post. Alla prossima!

  14. Comment by Liz:

    Such gorgeous little nibbles! I love that they’re made with olive oil, wine and coated in sesame seeds. The taste must be extraordinary!

  15. Comment by Pam:

    What perfect little cookies! They looks beautiful and I bet taste even better!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pam,

      These are really delicious. Cookies like this – made with wine – are a classic Italian treat. They are made in many shapes – little balls, rings and an oblong, sort of football shape. I hope you give them a try. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Comment by Chiara:

    Nero d’Avola is one of my favorite red wine! Oh, these biscotti are to die for, can’t wait to try! Have a great week my dear, a big hug

  17. Comment by Karen (Back Road Journal):

    We don’t have any Italian grocery stores or delis in our area but I’m going to be on the lookout for these ingredients. BTW, how is the house project coming along…good I hope. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Karen,

      I hope you can find the ingredients, perhaps on a trip to “the big city.” The house is coming along very nicely. The roof is on, so it is protected should we have any rain. Over the next two months the electrical, and all the other “guts” will go in. Then we will close up the walls and begin the process of making it look like a real home. Thanks so much for asking. Alla prossima!

  18. Comment by Choc Chip Uru:

    Just seeing the abundance of sesame seeds outside of this biscotti makes it so much healthier to me!
    Delicious recipe and I would love to try them with some wine 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  19. Comment by janie:

    These look like biscotti that I used to buy to serve with wine. I love anything with sesame seeds but i’ve never used wine in baking a biscotti. I’m going to give them a try.

  20. Comment by Ciaochowlinda:

    Good to see you back on the blog, Adri. These cookies must be delicious, with those great ingredients. They’re so unusual with the spices, the Nero D’Avola and the sesame seeds.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Linda,

      It’s good to be back. I blog so infrequently now. I really ought to get back to a better schedule. These go so nicely with a glass of Nero d’Avola – the spices really bump these up a notch. They are sneaky little things, looking as they do like Biscotti Regina, but these are indeed a twist on the classic. Un abbraccio forte!

  21. Comment by Annie @ ciaochowbambina:

    I am so excited to try this biscotti! This is the year I plan to expand my repertoire of Italian cookies and this recipe will be at the top of my list! Thank you Adri!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Annie,

      There are so many wonderful Italian cookies, and I am so glad you enjoy this one. Thanks so much for stopping by my site. Alla prossima!

  22. Comment by domenicacooks:

    Adri, my mother used to make cookies much like these, with red wine in the cookie dough. I don’t remember if she used cinnamon and I’m pretty sure she did not use white pepper. But otherwise they were close. She, too, formed them into little ovals (torpedo-like) and rolled them in sesame seeds. They were so good, crispy and crumbly and delicious dunked in milk. I recently posted another similar recipe for cookies made with white wine but I can’t wait to try these. I’m sure I’ll love them. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Domenica,

      Our two recipes are super similar, and I want to try yours. I have recently learned that a variation of this cookie is also made in Greece. The first time I made these I formed them into little balls, and Bart said he’d like the torpedo shape better because then he could dunk them in the wine! Sound familiar?

      I have come very late to the olive oil in baked goods party, but I am really enjoying the biscotti, cakes and crostata doughs I have made with olive oil. They are really delicious and have really surprised me. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Comment by 2 Sisters Recipes:

    OMG Adri, my future daughter-in-law is Sicilian and her mom made me cookies made with red wine, and we never heard anything like this before, but this is fascinating! WE have to try your recipe for the holidays. Bravo and thanks for sharing!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi you two,

      I hope you try these. They really are wonderful. You’ll see cookies with wine, both red and white, throughout Italy. Enjoy, and thank you both for stopping by.

  24. Comment by cheri:

    Hi Adri, my husband loves that wine, we buy it here in the US at Trader Joes markets. Never seen biscotti in that shape, also like the addition of sesame seed!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Cheri,

      We buy most of our Nero d’Avola at Trader Joe’s too, and it really is good. I hope you give these a try. They really are tasty. Thank you for stopping by.

  25. Comment by Carolyn Jung:

    I love sesame cookies because they are so flavorful without being over-the-top sweet. I’ve never baked cookies with 00 flour; have only used it for making pasta and pizza. Will definitely have to try it in my next batch of cookies.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Carolyn,

      I’m with you about sesame seeds. They really are good, and add a nice touch to so many baked goods. Try the 00 flour with these. It really makes a difference in the texture and lightness of the final product. The cookies are crisper and lighter. I am often surprised at the difference it makes. I hope you enjoy these. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  26. Comment by Sippitysup:

    Some of my favorite Italian cookies I discovered through you. This will soon go on the list. GREG

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Greg,

      What a lovely compliment. These are great, and I bet Ken could think of some terrific wines that you can use to make them. Cheers!

  27. Comment by Trisha Thomas:

    Adri — I love reading your posts, even though, as you know, I am hopeless in the kitchen. Your photos are lovely and your writing is perfect. I just wish I could taste all these delicious food and drinks you prepare.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Trisha,

      Thanks for the kind words. I have no doubt you could make these. They really are simple, and require no special skill whatsoever. And God knows you have access to some pretty spiffy wine and first rate olive oil in Rome. You can do this. I hope all is well, and it seems like those folks at the Vatican are keeping you very busy indeed.

  28. Comment by Jess @ whatjessicabakednext:

    These biscotti look amazing! Definitely would love to give the recipe a go, they sound delicious.

    • Comment by Adri:

      HI Jess,

      I am glad you liked this one, and thank you so much for stopping by. These really are a treat, and they showcase yet another terrific way to use olive oil.

  29. Comment by Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti:

    Adri, one of my husband’s favorite wines id Nero d’Avola! If I can convince him to let me use some of his wine I’ll make these cookies for him! 😉 I enjoyed the Italian wine pronunciation page very much –that was a good link!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Pat,

      Oh, work on him to let loose with a bit of his vino. These cookies will be worth his sacrifice. I am glad you liked the wine page. I think it is a terrific idea, and I love listening to the various winemakers. Thanks for stopping by!

  30. Comment by Laney (Ortensia Blu):

    In addition to without fail a phenomenal recipe, I always, always learn something new and interesting from you. Biscotti made with wine AND olive oil – you’ve nailed the two primary food groups!

  31. Comment by Amy @ Fearless Homemaker:

    Ooh, how wonderful these biscotti sound! And they’re so beautiful, too – perfect for a little holiday treat. Lovely recipe, Adri!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Amy,

      Thank you! We just could not stop gobbling these up. They are so easy to make, and they really are terrific. Just the thing for a little kitchen helper…

  32. Comment by Olivia @ Olivia's Cuisine:

    Adri, I can’t believe you have an italian food blog! I’m a sucker for italian food!!! These biscotti look amazing and I can’t wait to try them. 🙂

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Olivia,

      It was a pleasure to have found your site, and I am so glad you have visited me. Benvenuta! I hope you enjoy what you find here. Alla prossima!

  33. Comment by sue/the view from great island:

    Wow! You’ve got me sold on these, the flavors are unlike anything I’ve ever had!

  34. Comment by Jamie:

    These are beautiful, Adri! And I love… we love cookies that can be eaten with a glass of wine at the end of a meal. Or before. I have just the wine to make these with. Lovely. And you are right, perfect for the holidays!

  35. Comment by Anthony Fama:

    These are my favorite cookies. My mom makes the Sicilian version. Gobbled them up as a kid and still count on her baking them as an adult. Your post just brought back a lot of memories. Isn’t it nice when food is part of your history.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Anthony,

      OK. So now we need to get your mom’s recipe. I like that this brought back memories. As they say, I bet you can’t eat just one. The thing is – cookies are my downfall, and I know you love them too. I first made these last August, and Bart and I just gobbled them up. I think they will be fab for the winter.

  36. Comment by Mette:

    Wow- I really have to try these. They sound just like some biscuits called ‘peppernuts’ we eat for Christmas in Denmark, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were of foreign origin.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Mette,

      These really are tasty, and the cinnamon and pepper go nicely with the nero d’Avola wine. Before we know it, it will be time for Christmas cookies!

  37. Comment by monique:

    So cute..and interesting.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Monique,

      I’m glad these caught your eye. They are awfully cute – all lined up like little soldiers on their baking trays. We just loved these little cookies, and we devoured them, batch after batch. Thanks for stopping by!

  38. Comment by Eugenia Bone:

    As usual, a perfect post: so authoritative, so delicious. Adri, thank you. I have put these on my Thanksgiving menu. And thanks for the link to find 00 flour!

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Eugenia,

      Thank you for the kind remarks. I hope you enjoy these cookies! Olio2go is a terrific resource, and the staff is super helpful, so feel free to give them a call with any questions. I hope all is well with you, and best wishes for great success with your new book, “Kitchen Ecosystem”!

  39. Comment by Frank @Memorie di Angelina:

    These do sound awfully nice! I’m a real fan of Nero d’Avola—it’s a fantastic value for the money.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Frank,

      These little biscotti are a real treat. Bart and I love Nero d’Avola. We purchase it very often, and I am with you about the value. It is one of the best deals out there. Thanks for stopping by. Salut!

  40. Comment by Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch):

    First of all, I’ve never seen wine in cookies, so I’m loving that. And, I’m one of those who rarely spends a lot of money on Olive oil. We have a local Italian specialty shop that imports and preaches to use quality oil. I’ll have to see if they carry this brand. And I’ll have to ask my husband (the resident sommelier) if we’ve ever had that varietal. So much I’ve learned from this post. Pinning these cookies for our next wine tasting party.

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lea Ann,

      Wine in cookies is something one often sees in Mediterranean countries. Italy’s famous taralli often include it, as do a number of Greek cookies. As to the oil – I hope you can find Ravida or another of Sicily’s wonderful products. Look also for Pianogrillo, Olio Verde, or Centonze, all of which are truly superlative. If you have not yet tried Nero d’Avola, grab a bottle. You will be glad you did. Alla prossima!

  41. Comment by mimi:

    There is nothing thata doesn’t sound fabulous about these little cookies. I’ll have to see if I can get that wine!!!

    • Comment by Adri:

      CIao Mimi,

      Thanks for the kind words. This wine is quite easy to find these days. Many vintners produce it, and the very good news is that one need not spend a fortune to obtain a nice bottle. I bet you will love it. Cheers!

  42. Comment by Paola Lovisetti Scamihorm:

    Dear Adri,
    What delicious cookies! I really would like to try this recipe because I love Nero D’avola but never had in cookies. Your recipes are always well presented with interesting texts and stanning pictures. Happy cooking, Paola

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Paola,

      I bet you will enjoy these, and they really are lovely with a glass of nice wine. Thank you, as alwats, for the kind words. Un bacione!

  43. Comment by Maureen | Orgasmic Chef:

    I have never had a cookie made with wine as an ingredient. I can’t wait to try your biscotti!

  44. Comment by Chiara:

    what a wonderful idea for Christmas gift Adri,have a nice weekend, a hug !

    • Comment by Adri:

      Ciao Chiara,

      Thank you! These are so nice for a little snack. One afternoon Bart, our contractor, and I finished off an entire batch! Un bacione a te!

  45. Comment by Lyn Douglas:

    These sound perfect for me to make for Christmas. Thanks Lyn

    • Comment by Adri:

      Hi Lyn,

      These would be an absolute delight at Christmas – the little bit of spice makes them just the thing to include on a holiday cookie tray. Thanks for stopping by!

  46. Comment by laura:

    Inviting photos and beautifully explained recipe! Good to see you back. Hope everything on your plate (besides these wonderful biscotti and a glass of Nero d’Avola) is on its way to being “just” a memory.

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