Pignoli Cookies, or pine nut cookies, are a classic Italian confection. They're chewy, sweet and only require 5 ingredients! This is one of my all time favorite cookies to bake during the holidays.
Called Amaretti con Pignoli in Italian, these cookies can be found at just about any good Italian bakery, but not all are created equal. This authentic recipe for Amaretti con pignoli has been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.
These cookies are really simple to make, but have this incredible texture - moist, chewy middles with crisp, toasty pine nut coated edges. They almost have a creamy quality even though they're not made with any dairy or gluten.
The pine nuts and almond paste give them a velvety, buttery texture that will melt in your mouth! They make an amazing Christmas cookie and gift because they keep for quite a long time, but I love these chewy confections any time of year. This is truly the BEST pignoli cookie recipe you will EVER try!
Why this recipe works
- 5 simple ingredients and 20 minutes of active prep time.
- Amazing chewy texture, similar to a macaroon.
- Uses a precise amount of pine nuts so that none go to waste.
- WAY less expensive than buying at an Italian bakery.
- Allergy friendly - They just happen to be dairy free and gluten free!
- Pine Nuts - Called Pignoli in Italian, these nuts are one of the most expensive, but they're worth it. Use Mediterranean pine nuts if you can find them - they're the best quality. Chinese pine nuts are more common, but lesser quality. Still, they will work fine for pignoli cookies.
- Almond Paste - The best, most authentic pignoli cookies are made with almond paste and not marzipan or anything else. I recommend Solo brand.
- Food Processor - While you can make pignoli cookies without a food processor (*see note below), using a food processor is much easier.
Step by Step Instructions
1. Crumble the almond paste into a food processor and pulse until it's the texture of sand.
2. Add the sugar, egg whites and salt and process until smooth - about 15 seconds. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture into another bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This will help make the dough easier to roll into balls
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray all over with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Add pine nuts into a shallow bowl or dish.
4. Fill a small bowl with water and keep it at your work station to wet your hands. This will make rolling the dough easier.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and use a spoon to scoop out a small piece, roughly the size of a rounded tablespoon.
6. Wet your hands, then roll the dough into a ball.
7. Drop the ball into the pine nuts and press to coat and flatten into a disc. Be careful not to coat with too many nuts or you'll run out before finishing.
8. Lay the cookies on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart and repeat until all the dough and nuts are gone.
9. Bake for about 11-14 minutes or until they're golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely before serving.
Tips for success
- Keep your dough chilling in the refrigerator until you're ready to start rolling to make it firmer and easier to work with. You can keep the dough refrigerated for up to 24 hours before making the cookies.
- Keep a small bowl of water handy to wet your hands so that the dough doesn't stick while you roll them into balls.
- Try to limit the amount of pine nuts that stick to each cookie, especially in the beginning when there are lots of them. It's easy to coat a ball of dough in too many, and you will run out before rolling all of the cookies and you will need to use more.
- Baking times will vary by oven, and while some say Pignoli Cookies are best on the lighter, less-baked side, I prefer them more browned and toasted.
FAQ about Pignoli Cookies
Pine nut cookies will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 10 days. They will gradually lose their freshness, but they keep much longer than most cookies. They can also be frozen in a zip top bag for up to 3 months. If you plan on feeding, undercook them slightly, then thaw in the refrigerator and re-crisp in the oven at 300 degrees F for about 5 minutes.
Definitely don't throw them away! Add them to your scrambled eggs or carbonara sauce to make it extra rich or save them for a custard or homemade ice cream. Freeze them in ice cube trays, then store in a zip-top bag for later use.
Yes! I recommend following the same technique only using a hand mixer (with beaters) or stand mixer (with a paddle attachment) instead. Because of the thick texture of the almond paste, they are challenging to mix by hand, but with a lot of grit and elbow grease it can be done.
Almonds, pistachios, or really any other nut - even coconut - will make a nice substitution.
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