"Pignoli" is the Italian word for pine nuts. These are the edible seeds of pine trees and are often used in both savory and sweet dishes. Pine nuts are often associated with pesto, but they are also delicious when tossed into salads or incorporated into desserts.
These Italian pignoli cookies are popular in Sicily and southern Italy as well as among Italian communities in the United States. It is a popular recipe to prepare at Christmas time for a nutty holiday dessert. The cookies incorporate both almond paste and almond flour for flavor and texture. They bake up to a gorgeous golden color and the pine nuts become lightly toasted and crisp. Serve topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar and an espresso for a true Italian treat.
- 1 (8-ounce) tube almond paste
- 1/3 cup almond flour
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar (plus more for decorating)
- 2 cups pine nuts
Gather the ingredients.
Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Top a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Crumble the almond paste into a large bowl. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the almond paste, almond flour, egg whites, and 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar until smooth.
Scoop up a tablespoon of the batter. Roll the batter in the pine nuts, covering it completely and forming a ball. The dough will be very sticky but will become easier to handle and form as it is coated in the pine nuts.
Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, placing the balls of dough about 1 inch apart.
Bake 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet.
Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Enjoy with a warm cup of coffee or espresso.
- Make sure you're buying the proper ingredients for this cookie recipe. Almond paste is made with sugar and almonds and is sold in tubes or cans. It should not be confused with the sweeter and coarser marzipan, often found nearby in the grocery store. Almond paste is often used as a filling in Italian pies or cakes as well as in pignoli cookies. Almond flour is made from finely ground blanched almonds and is also known as almond meal or ground almonds. If you are unsure, check the ingredients on the package. The only ingredient listed should be almonds. Almond flour will keep for up to one year. It’s best stored in a cool, dark place in a well-sealed container.
- These cookies store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.