Pignoli cookies are incredibly crispy on the outside with a perfectly chewy center. They’re our favorite Italian cookie recipe for holiday cookie exchanges or anytime treats!
Baking Italian cookies and other Italian desserts is a tradition at our house. From struffoli and tiramisu cake to pizzelle cookies and torrone Italian nougat or this Cuccidati cookies recipe, we have a bunch of delicious homemade Italian treats that you can make for the Christmas and Easter holidays!!
This classic treat combines a sweet, chewy almond flavored cookie with a crunchy, savory pine nut topping.
The combination of textures is similar to a French macaron, with the egg white giving the treats puff and structure.
Plus, Italian pine nut cookies are naturally gluten and dairy free, making them an easy allergen-friendly treat without the need for specialty ingredients!
How to Make Italian Pignoli
Break up the almond paste in a food processor, then add in the remaining dry ingredients and pulse until combined. Pour in the egg whites and pulse again until the dough comes together.
Scoop rounds directly into a bowl of pine nuts without rolling them around – you only want one side to be coated.
Transfer to a baking sheet, touching them as little as possible, and bake the pine nut cookies until the edges and tops are slightly browned.
Tips and Tricks
- Use cookie scoops. Because the dough is so sticky, it’s easiest to scoop it straight into the bowl of nuts. You’re welcome to chill the dough first, but it doesn’t seem to help much.
- Only cover the tops. In order for the Italian pignoli cookies to bake properly, the dough needs to have direct contact with the baking sheet. Be sure that the nuts are only mounded over the visible surface, filling in gaps by hand as needed.
- Avoid sticky fingers. If you aren’t concerned about keeping these gluten-free, you can dust your hands with flour to help with the stickiness. However, you may need to brush the dough balls with extra egg white to get the pine nuts to adhere to the surface.
- Don’t overbake! Pull them from the oven as soon as the tops start to turn golden brown. Any longer and they’ll be too crunchy. They also tend to harden over time, so it’s best if they start out a bit chewier.
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Pignoli Cookie Recipe FAQ
Do Italian pignoli cookies need to be refrigerated?
These can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you won’t be able to finish them before then, you can store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper, then transfer to a storage bag. Thaw on the counter before serving.
Can I use marzipan instead of almond paste?
Not for authentic pignoli! While they are both made from almonds, marzipan is much too sweet and should only be used for molding decorative shapes.
Almond paste also has a coarser texture, which makes it easier to blend into baked goods and fillings.
Why are pignoli cookies so expensive?
Pine nuts are one of the most expensive nuts in the world, mostly because they are really labor intensive to harvest. Fortunately, making pine nut cookies at home is much more affordable.
With love from our simple kitchen to yours.
MORE HOLIDAY COOKIE RECIPES
Italian Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)
- 8 ounce almond paste
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ounces raw pine nuts
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add almond paste and pulse until it is broken into small crumbs.
- Add granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt to the almond paste and pulse several more times until mixture is evenly combined.
- Add egg whites to the bowl and pulse again until mixture forms a sticky dough.
- Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop even balls of dough. Drop the balls into a small bowl filled with the pine nuts. You want to coat just one side of the dough ball with pine nuts. Carefully flip the dough ball over onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pine nut side up.
- Fill in any holes with additional pine nuts so that the top and sides of the ball are evenly coated with pine nuts.
- Place the balls 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet.
- Bake for 14-15 minutes or until the cookies are puffed with a slight dome on the top and are noticeably light golden brown around the bottom edges. The cookie should appear slightly shiny with some browned pine nuts on the top.
- Allow cookies to cool for 3-4 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published October 2021
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