Everyone knows a good name when they hear one, and 'ugly but good' tops the list. All over Italy they sell these, adapting the name to the local dialect - brut ma bun in Tuscany, brut e bun (ugly and good) in Lombardy, brutti ma buoni and brutti e buoni elsewhere. Confusingly in Tuscany they are also known as ossi di morti -'bones of the dead'- which is the equally brilliant name of a very different biscuit in Basilicata, shaped actually like bones. 

Essentially a nut meringue, those in the know say brutti ma buoni originated in Prato, in Tuscany, as a way of using up egg whites left over when they made rich egg yolk and nut Mantovana (Mantuan cake). Mantovana is fickle to make. But here's the famously ugly by-product, which is equally good. 


Makes about 30 biscuits


  • 6 large egg whites
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 400g skin-off hazelnuts (or almonds, or both) chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed but not quite to a powder (optional)
  • A little cocoa powder, to serve



Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add the sugars to obtain a luscious and dense meringue. Set a shallow pan of water over a flame and, as it boils, put the mixing bowl over this, without it touching the water, to slightly wam the meringue, turning with a metal spoon until it is a little dense, and becomes glossy. Fold in the chopped nuts and coriander seeds. 

Prepare a baking sheet, wither with butter and flour, or a lining of baking parchment. Use a tablespoon to dollop spoonfuls of the mixture on to the sheet, leaving about 2cm gaps between them. Don't worry if they are somewhat irregular - that's the point. Bake at 150C/Gas 2 for an hour, until amber and crunchy, dust them with cocoa powder while still hot, and leave to cool before serving. They are also quite delicious coated in bitter chocolate.