In olden-day farmhouses, never wanting to throw anything away, sensible housewives would use up leftover egg whites by adding a little sugar and making meringues. Some, with a bit more imagination, tried mixing almonds with the egg whites. And this is how “Brutti ma Buoni” (= literally, ugly but good) were born. The strange name of these delicious little biscuits, “bestowed” on them jokingly by someone’s husband we like to think, fits them perfectly
Lightly toast the almonds and hazelnuts in the oven, preheated to 150 °C. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely. Beat the egg whites with the teaspoon of lemon juice until stiff (here we say like “neve ferma” = hard snow) using a whisk (an electric one will save you some work!). Fold the sugar in delicately with a wooden spoon (taking care not to “deflate” the beaten egg whites). Do the same with the chopped almonds and hazelnuts, and the finely chopped lemon rind.
Transfer this mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over a very low heat, stirring continuously, for 15-20 minutes, until it has dried out a little. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. To be quite sure that the biscuits don’t stick, you can grease the paper with a little softened butter. Place spoonfuls of the mixture on the paper, spacing them out well.
Preheat the oven to 140-150 °C, put the tray in and bake for approximately half an hour; turn the oven off and wait, without opening it, until it’s just lukewarm. Take the tray out and let your biscuits cool completely, they may be “ugly” (their dough is unusual: you can’t roll it out or shape it nicely with biscuit cutters) but they taste incredibly “good”! If kept in an airtight tin or jar, they will keep for about two to three months.