Italian Pignoli Cookies

December 18, 2015

in Cook What You Like, Cookies and Confections


Pignoli Cookies v1

Need something special for your cookie tray?   These  Italian Pignoli Cookies amp up the “oohs” and “aahs” when cookie splurgers bite through the crisp outer layer to reveal the decadently-chewy interior.   Southern Italy and Sicily claim the origins of this popular confection-cookie which are also known as Italian Pine Nut Cookies, Amaretti, Macaroons, and Almond Paste Cookies.

This luxurious (have you checked out the price of pine nuts lately?) cookie is made with few ingredients.  The dough easily comes together by combining almond paste, egg whites and sugar.  Form the dough into little balls and dip the top half into the pine nuts.  You can also shape the dough into crescents or use sliced almonds instead of pine nuts.  And if you’re a purist, no need for the outer layer of nuts; once baked, the crackly almond paste shell is enough.

Recipe: Italian Pignoli Cookies

Sliced almonds can be substituted for the pine nuts.  Dust with powdered sugar to finish.


  • 1 lb. almond paste (about 1 3/4 cups), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups pignoli (pine nuts)


  1. Prepare: lightly toast pine nuts in a medium saute pan over medium heat on the stove.  Watch carefully while stirring frequently.  Remove pine nuts to a shallow bowl to cool.  Line 3-4 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Make dough:  into a large mixing bowl, with your hands, break almond paste into small pea-size pieces.  Using a hand held mixer or your hands, mix in sugar, then the egg whites one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Shape cookies:  forming the dough is easier with wet hands.  Find a bowl sized to easily dip in your hands and will halfway with with cool water.  Wet your hands in the cool water, shaking off excess water and shape dough into 1-inch size balls.  Dip the tops of the balls into the pine nuts and place dough balls nut side up on the lined baking sheets spacing 2 inches apart.  Rewet your hands as necessary.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350º F oven:  bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are lightly browned, about 15-17 minutes.  If baking more than one sheet at a time, rotate baking sheets top to bottom and front to back about 60% into the baking time.
  5. Cool: when cookies are baked, remove from oven and cool cookies on the baking sheet set on top of cooling racks.  The cookies are ready to be peeled off the parchment when their bottoms easily let go of the parchment paper.  Finish cooling cookies on wire racks.
  6. Store cookies in an airtight container using wax paper to separate layers.  Cookies stay crisp for 2-3 days, after that their bottoms may soften but they’ll be just as delicious.
Makes 3-4 dozen.


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