These Italian Almond Cookies Are the Perfect Post-Dinner Treat

published Dec 29, 2021
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Pignoli Cookies Recipe

These classic Italian cookies — made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and pine nuts — are naturally gluten-free.

Makes12 cookies

Prep15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 17 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Pignoli cookies
Credit: Photo: Jenny Bravo | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

Chewy, almond-rich pignoli cookies — enrobed in buttery toasted pine nuts — are one of my favorite Italian treats. I always got my fix from my local Italian bakery, assuming the cookies were too difficult to whip up from scratch. But as it turns out, pignoli cookies are one of the easiest cookies you can make, requiring just five ingredients and very little work. Here, I’ll show you how to do it so you, too, can transport yourself to Italy.

Credit: Photo: Jenny Bravo | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

What Are Pignoli Cookies?

Pignoli cookies are Italian cookies made with almond paste, sugar, and egg whites that are rolled in pine nuts before baking (pignoli is the Italian word for pine nuts). They’re native to Southern Italy and Sicily, and they’re popular in Italian-American communities in the United States — especially around Christmastime.

Because pignoli cookies don’t contain any flour, they’re naturally gluten-free. This also results in a texture that’s chewy and pleasantly dense. The cookies are full of almond flavor, similar to that of Italian almond macaroons, except the exterior features a crunchy, buttery coating of pine nuts. They’re the perfect after-dinner or mid-afternoon treat, and pair especially well with an espresso.

Credit: Photo: Jenny Bravo | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

Can I Use Marzipan Instead of Almond Paste?

Unfortunately not. While the two ingredients are both made from almonds, they’re quite different.

  • Marzipan is made from almonds, sugar, glucose syrup, and water, and can also sometimes contain egg whites. It’s very smooth, sweet, and often dyed and molded into shapes. Rather than used as an ingredient in baked goods, it’s used similarly to fondant or eaten as a candy.
  • Almond paste is also made from almonds, sugar, glucose syrup, and water, but contains much less sugar and almost double the amount of almonds. This means it’s less sweet and also crumbly in texture rather than smooth. It’s used as an ingredient or filling for baked goods.

Should Pignoli Cookies Be Refrigerated?

There’s no need to refrigerate pignoli cookies; simply pack them into an airtight container and store them at room temperature for up to one week. They will stay perfectly fresh — soft on the inside and crispy on the outside — when stored this way.

Pignoli Cookies Recipe

These classic Italian cookies — made with almond paste, sugar, egg whites, and pine nuts — are naturally gluten-free.

Prep time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 17 minutes

Makes 12 cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 7 to 8 ounces

    almond paste (not marzipan), such as Odense or Solo

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 1

    large egg white

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    pine nuts

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Break 7 to 8 ounces almond paste into roughly 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup powdered sugar and pulse until the mixture is combined and crumbly, 15 to 20 pulses.

  3. Add 1 large egg white and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and process until a smooth, thick dough forms, about 20 seconds.

  4. Place 1 cup pine nuts in a small bowl. Divide the dough into 12 portions (a heaping tablespoon each). Working with 1 portion at a time, drop into the bowl of pine nuts and toss gently to coat, then roll it lightly into a ball with your hands to adhere. Place on the baking sheet, spacing the dough balls a least 1-inch apart.

  5. Bake until the edges are firm and some of the pine nuts are pale golden-brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Pignoli Cookies