These delicious pistachio confections are a specialty of the Santo Spirito Monastery, in Agrigento, where I have enjoyed them several times. Agrigento and pistachios go hand in hand, since it is in Favara, right outside the town, that the pistachios grow. Seeing these confections for the first time made me understand why some pistachios are dyed red. For the bocconcini, the skins (natural and undyed) are left on the pistachios, and they tint the sugar coating a delicate pink as their color bleeds into it. The mammoth, deep green, flavorful pistachios of Favara are unfortunately not available to us for duplicating the recipe. I usually purchase pistachios in a Middle Eastern store, where they are guaranteed to be deep green and fresh.
Pick over the pistachios to remove any bits of shell and set aside.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, making sure to wash down the insides of the pan occasionally with a clean brush dipped in cold water. At the boil, insert a candy thermometer and raise the heat to medium. Cook the syrup until it reaches the soft-ball stage, 240 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into another saucepan to cool until the bottom of the pan may be held comfortably on the palm of your hand. Beat the cooled syrup with a small spoon until it hardens and crystallizes, then add 1 teaspoon water and place the pan on the lowest possible heat until the sugar is smooth, melted, and creamy. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the pistachios, then remove
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