Palline al Cioccolato (Chocolate Balls)

These little chocolate balls, a thoughtful gift for your favorite Valentine, are a variation of Palline all’ Arancia. This is one of the very few confections in which the Sicilian nuns used chocolate. Traditionally, they were made with rum. Since I don’t care for the taste of rum but, do enjoy anything with an almond flavor, I used both almond extract and Disaronno. Disaronno Originale is a type of amaretto—an amber-colored liqueur with a characteristic almond taste. It is produced in Saronno, in the Lombardy region of Italy and is sold worldwide. According to the company, the sweet liqueur is an infusion of apricot kernel oil with “absolute alcohol, burnt sugar, and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits”. The liqueur is sold in an oblong glass decanter designed by a craftsman from Murano, Italy. Surprisingly, this Italian liqueur does not contain any almonds or other nuts.


  • 1 1/3 cups almonds, blanched
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa power
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4-5 teaspoons water
  • Granulated sugar for coating
  1. Using a food processor, combine the almonds, sugar and cocoa powder. Process until the almonds are ground medium-fine.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the Amaretto and almond extract. Stir in the water a teaspoon at a time, to make a stiff dough.
  3. Using your hands, work the moist mixture until it holds together. Form into 1 1/2-inch balls.
  4. Roll the balls in sugar to coat. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry for 3 hours.
  5. Place the balls in paper cases in an airtight container. Let them rest 3-4 days for the flavors to flourish. They will keep for weeks!

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