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Pignoli Cookies – Easy Italian Pine Nut Cookies

Sicilian Pignoli Cookies are simple 4 ingredient cookies, with a sweet nutty flavor.  With pine nuts and almond paste being the main ingredients, these cookies are truly a luxury that is most often reserved for Christmas or special occasions.  But they don’t have to be!

A plate of pine nut cookies dusted with powdered sugar.

Chewy pignoli cookies are so good you will have a hard time eating just one!

These delicious cookies are slightly crunchy on the outside with a chewy almond-flavored center.  They are amaretti-style or macaroon-style cookies that are studded with toasted pine nuts.  In southern Italy, you are sure to find these cookies adorning a cookie tray or dessert table along with other classic Italian cookies, such as PizzicatiAnginetti, or Almond Paste Cookies.  

WHAT YOU WILL LOVE ABOUT THESE COOKIES

​There is a lot to love about these cookies, but to start with this is a very easy recipe to make.  All of the ingredients are mixed together in a food processor for a few seconds and then the dough is rolled in the pine nuts before baking them.  Let them cool and they are ready to eat!

There are only 4 ingredients in this recipe…well, five if you want to dust them with powdered sugar!

They are everyone’s favorite cookies!  These cookies have a sweet almond flavor and the most perfect chewy texture!

Authentic Italian pignoli cookies are naturally gluten-free!  

Although the ingredients are pricey, homemade pignoli cookies are a better value than buying them from an Italian bakery.

Ingredients for Pignoli cookies: Sugar, Egg whites, Pine nuts and Almond Paste with labels on each item.

INGREDIENT NOTES

​ALMOND PASTE

I want to talk a little about almond paste because this is one of the main ingredients in traditional pignoli cookies.  It is sweet, and nutty, and gives the cookies their chewy centers.  

Almond paste is easy make at home, and I highly recommend it or you can find it in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.

There are usually are two types of almond paste, one comes in a tube and the other is in a brick form.  I highly recommend that you purchase the brick form for this recipe.  It will be denser and have less moisture than the kind in a tube.  This is a sticky cookie dough and if you use the type in the tube your dough may be too creamy to form into cookies.​

ALMOND PASTE VS. MARZIPAN

Almond paste and marzipan are similar but they are not necessarily interchangeable.  While they are both made from ground almonds and sugar, marzipan has a much higher sugar content, making it much sweeter, smoother, and more pliable.  Its density makes it perfect for forming into shapes and even painting them.  

Almond paste on the other hand is softer, grittier and has more moisture.  It can be creamed into cakes, cookies and other recipes where marzipan can’t.  

PIGNOLI OR PINE NUTS 

Pignoli are the star ingredient in these chewy cookies and they are very expensive nuts!  So we don’t want to waste even one! Pine nuts have a high oil content so they can become rancid and taste quite bitter if not stored properly.  So be sure to store the unopened package in a cool dry place. Once you open the package, the nuts should be stored in the refrigerator or better yet in the freezer to extend their shelf life. 

WHY ARE PIGNOLI SO EXPENSIVE?

Pine nuts are the seeds that grow in the pine cones from pine trees.  There are only certain varieties of pine trees that produce pine nuts and it takes 1 1/2 to 2 years for the seeds to mature and ripen before they can be eaten.  To complicate things, they are very difficult to harvest and the process has to be done by hand.  So the limited supply along with the labor-intensive process of harvesting them makes them a very expensive commodity. 

​HOW TO MAKE CLASSIC ITALIAN PIGNOLI COOKIES

3 photos of the cookie dough being made in the food processor.

1.Make the cookie dough:  

Break or tear the almond paste into small pieces and place it in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and process until it looks like coarse sand.

Add the eggs to the food processor and process until the dough forms, about 30 seconds.

2. Form the Cookies

Place pine nuts in a shallow dish.

Scoop a tablespoon of dough out and roll it into the pine nuts.

Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Pignoli cookies that have been baked on a cookie sheet.

3. Bake the Cookies

Bake the cookies in a preheated 325°F oven for 15-18 minutes.  Cooking times may vary based on the size of the cookies.  The cookies will be lightly golden brown and the nuts will be toasted when the cookies are done.

Remove the tray from the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, before transferring them to a cooling rack. 

BAKING TIPS

  • Using a food processor or an electric hand mixer fitted with a wire whisk is the best way to quickly mix the cookie dough.
  • I like to use a small, 1 tablespoon size cookie scoop so that the cookies are uniform.
  • Wetting your hands will make it easier to roll the sticky dough balls in the pine nuts. 
  • Don’t overbake the cookies.  Overbaking them will result in crispy rather than chewy cookies.
  • Make sure to let them cool on the cookie sheets for about 10 minutes or the cookies will fall apart when you transfer them to the cooling rack.
a plate of Pignoli cookies in front of an espresso coffee pot and demitasse cup.

MAKE AHEAD

This easy cookie recipe can be made ahead if you need to.  Make the cookie dough as instructed, then pour it out into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap before refrigerating it overnight.  

​VARIATIONS

Here are some simple modifications to the recipe that you might want to try

  • Add vanilla extract to the dough
  • To intensify the almond flavor use a little almond extract.
  • Some recipes call for orange or lemon zest in the dough.
  • Sprinkle the cookies with confectioners’ sugar when they have cooled.

STORING THESE SIMPLE COOKIES

To store pignoli cookies place them in an airtight container.  They can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.  They can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month.  To freeze them, place them in a plastic container in a single layer with wax paper between layers and seal them with a tight-fitting lid.

A plate with a pignoli cookie and a half cookie on top of it.

OTHER CLASSIC COOKIES

Whether you are preparing for the holiday season, a special occasion, or just because you want to make your family happy, I have a classic Italian recipe to help you out.  

Chocolate dipped Italian Butter Cookies are always a hit with the kids and the kids at heart!  It wouldn’t be Christmas without Sesame Cookies, Cuccidati or Chocolate Spice Cookies.  

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Pignoli Cookies Recipe or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest for more recipes your family will love!

a plate of Pignoli cookies in front of an espresso coffee pot and demitasse cup.

Pignoli Cookies – Easy Italian Pine Nut Cookies

Pignoli cookies are sweet, soft, chewy nut flavored cookies that are easy to make but hard to resist! These cookies require only 4 ingredients and can be made in less then an hour. They are perfect for the holidays or a celebration any time of the year.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Course Cookies, Dessert
Cuisine Italian, Sicilian
Servings 30 cookies
Calories 160 kcal

Equipment

  • Baking sheets
  • Parchment Paper
  • 1 Food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 16 oz Almond paste
  • cups Sugar
  • 3 Egg whites large
  • 8 oz Pignoli nuts

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat oven to 325℉ and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the pignoli nuts in a shallow bowl and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, break or tear the almond paste into small pieces and add the sugar. Run the processor until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  • Add the egg whites and run the processor until the mixture forms a dough. The cookies dough will be sticky.
  • Scoop out about a tablespoon full of dough, and with wet fingers roll the dough into a ball the best you can. Roll the cookie dough ball in the pignoli nuts and place it on the cookie tray. Repeat this with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies about 2" apart on the baking sheets. The cookies will spread so make sure to leave space between them.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden brown and the nuts are toasted. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the cookie tray for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to complete cooling.

Notes

BAKING TIPS

  • Using a food processor or an electric hand mixer fitted with a wire whisk is the best way to quickly mix the cookie dough.
  • I like to use a small, 1 tablespoon size cookie scoop so that the cookies are uniform.
  • Wetting your hands will make it easier to roll the sticky dough balls in the pine nuts. 
  • Don’t overbake the cookies.  Overbaking them will result in crispy rather than chewy cookies.
  • Make sure to let them cool on the cookie sheets for about 10 minutes or the cookies will fall apart when you transfer them to the cooling rack.

MAKE AHEAD

This easy cookie recipe can be made ahead if you need to.  Make the cookie dough as instructed, then pour it out into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap before refrigerating it overnight.  

STORING 

To store pignoli cookies place them in an airtight container.  They can be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.  They can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month.  To freeze them, place them in a plastic container in a single layer with wax paper between layers and seal them with a tight-fitting lid.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 160kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 3gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 7mgPotassium: 98mgFiber: 1gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 28mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Almond paste, egg whites, pine nuts, Christmas, easy
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

1 thought on “Pignoli Cookies – Easy Italian Pine Nut Cookies”

  • 5 stars
    This is a very special cookie! The texture is so good and I love almond ! Perfect addition for my Christmas cookie assortment this year!

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