Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe (with VIDEO) (2024)

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Classic Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe – soft, chewy almond flavored centers with a crispy, crunchy exterior that’s covered in golden, toasted pine nuts. Super quick and easy to make!

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What are Pignoli Cookies?

Pignoli Cookies (Amaretti con Pignoli) are an Italian classic. A standard at any Italian bakery, they’re a simple, fragrant cookie made of almond paste, sugar, and egg whites. They have an intense almond flavor with moist, chewy centers and crisp exteriors studded with pine nuts.

This easy recipe for Pignoli Cookies is the traditional way to make authentic Italian pine nut cookies. They’re a holiday favorite that’s naturally gluten-free and dairy free.

Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe (with VIDEO) (2)

Easy Pignoli Cookies - the easiest, quickest cookie to make

This luxurious Pignoli nut cookie is surprisingly simple to make at home. With only 4 ingredients (plus a pinch of salt), Italian Pignoli cookies are quick and easy to make– from start to finish in 30 minutes.

The BEST Pignoli Cookies - Why you’ll love this Pignoli Cookie recipe

  • A rich, elegant, luxurious cookie
  • Addictive, fragrant almond flavor
  • Unique flavor and texture – moist and chewy plus crispy and crunchy
  • Only 4 ingredients
  • So quick and easy - just 1 minute in the food processor and the dough is done
  • No cooling or resting time for the dough
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Pignoli ingredients

  • Almond paste – be sure to use almond paste and not marzipan. I’ve included variations below, including one for marzipan, if you can’t find almond paste. You can use homemade almond paste or a store bought brand like Solo or Odense.
  • Sugar – granulated white sugar
  • Egg whites
  • Pine nuts (Pignoli) – for rolling. The pine nuts become golden and crispy during baking so there’s no need to toast them ahead of time.
Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe (with VIDEO) (4)

Almond paste vs. Marzipan

While they are both made of almonds and sugar, they are not always interchangeable in recipes. Their two main differences are sweetness and texture.

Marzipan is smooth and sweet with a delicate flavor. It is often dyed and stiff enough to be molded into shapes (like these carrots on my Carrot Cake). It’s also used to cover cakes like fondant or eaten alone. It contains more sugar and almost half the amount of almonds as almond paste.

Almond paste is coarser, less sweet, and nuttier in flavor. It’s soft enough to be used as a filling or ingredient in baked goods.

Almond paste can be found in your local supermarket. It comes in tubes, cans, or foil packets. Here’s the one I used for this recipe.

How to Make Pignoli Cookies

  1. Process the almond paste, sugar, and salt until it’s combined and resembles corn meal
  2. Add the egg whites and process until a dough forms
  3. Roll the dough into balls then into the pine nuts
  4. Bake until golden

Break up the almond paste into 1 inch pieces and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and salt and pulse until it’s combined, about 30 seconds. It should resemble corn meal.

Add about ⅔ of the egg whites and process, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining egg whites as necessary to form a sticky dough. The dough will be wet and sticky, but you will be able to roll it into balls between your hands.

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Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into 1 inch balls, about 25 grams each.

Roll the balls in the pine nuts. The stickiness of the dough will help the nuts stick.

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Place on a baking sheet and bake until the nuts are starting to turn golden, about 15-18 minutes. Don’t overbake.

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Tips for success

Don’t overbake the cookies. Bake until the nuts are just starting to turn golden. You want the insides to remain moist and chewy.

Use the correct size of eggs. Large egg whites should weigh about 30 grams each. Too little egg whites and the dough will be dry and the pine nuts won’t stick. Too much, and the dough will be too sticky and difficult to roll into a ball. If you don’t have large eggs on hand or live outside the US, be sure to measure your egg whites.

Adding ⅔ of the egg whites first, then adding what is needed from the remainder, ensures that the dough isn't too wet. Because different kinds of almond paste have a different moisture content or different weights (Solo is 8oz a pack while Odense is 7oz), they may require slightly different amounts of egg whites to form a dough.

If you find the dough isn’t sticky enough for the pine nuts to adhere, dip the rolled dough balls into beaten egg white before rolling in pine nuts.

If the dough seems too sticky, roll the balls with wet hands.

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Pignoli Recipe Variations

No food processor? No almond paste? No problem! I’ve included variations for making the Pignoli with marzipan, from scratch using almonds, by hand using almond flour, a version with less sugar, and even a version without pine nuts.

Pignoli cookies made with marzipan

Here is a recipe to make Pignoli Cookies with marzipan instead of almond paste. It adds almond flour (finely ground almonds) and uses less sugar so the balance of almonds and sugar comes out right.

While I love all the variations of Pignoli, this one adapted from King Arthur might be my favorite. It comes out extra dense and chewy, turning more of a golden brown with some caramelization on the bottom.

Combine 11oz (312g) marzipan, 5 tablespoons (64g) sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ cup (48g) almond flour or ½ cup (46g) blanched almonds in a food processor and process until combined thoroughly. It should resemble cornmeal. Add 1 large egg white (30g) and 1 ¼ teaspoons almond extract or 3 to 4 drops almond flavor. Process until a smooth, wet dough forms. Roll dough balls in pine nuts and bake.

Pignoli Cookies without almond paste (from scratch using almonds)

You can make Pignoli starting with almonds instead of almond paste. This makes a more economical cookie with a less intense almond flavor. You can add almond flavor or extract to boost the flavor if you’d like. However, this cookie adapted from America’s Test Kitchen is delicious as is.

Combine 1 ⅔ cups (200g) blanched, slivered almonds and 1 ⅓ cups (265g) sugar in a food processor and process until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add 2 large egg whites (60g) and process until a smooth, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. Roll dough balls in pine nuts and bake.

Pignoli Cookies with less sugar:

Pignoli Cookies are traditionally very sweet, however they can be made with less sugar. They will be a little less dense and a little more cakey. Decrease the sugar in the recipe to ¾ cup and the egg whites to 1.

Pignoli Cookies with almond flour

Pignoli Cookies can be made with almond flour either by hand or in the food processor. Combine 2 cups (240g) blanched almond flour or finely ground almonds, ¾ cup (149g) granulated sugar, and 1 ¼ cups (141g) powdered sugar. Mix in 3 large (90g) egg whites and 1 teaspoon almond extract until a smooth dough forms. Roll in pine nuts and bake.

Pignoli Cookies with no food processor

Pignoli Cookies can be made with no food processor. Either use the recipe with almond flour, or use a stand or hand mixer to break apart the almond paste and combine it thoroughly with the sugar, then add the egg whites.

Pignoli Cookies with no pine nuts

While they technically wouldn’t be Pignoli, you can substitute chopped or slivered almonds or chopped cashews for the pine nuts. The difference in flavor wouldn’t be very noticeable.

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Flavor additions:

I haven’t added any extra flavors to this basic Pignoli recipe because I love to let the flavor of the almonds shine through. If you’d like to add a little extra flavor, however, here are some ideas:

  • Orange zest
  • Lemon zest
  • Cinnamon

How to store Pignoli Cookies

Store pignoli cookies in an air tight container at room temperature for up to four days. Place sheets of wax paper or parchment between each of the layers.

Can you freeze Pignoli Cookies?

Pignoli Cookies can also be frozen. Put in the freezer in a single layer until frozen, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag. Try to press out as much air as you can for the freshest cookie.

They can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let thaw at room temperature. You can crisp them up in a 250° F oven for a few minutes.

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FAQ

Are pine nuts and pignoli the same?

Pignoli (pronounced pēn-yō′lē) is the Italian word for pine nuts. They are the edible seeds of pine trees.

Why are Pignoli Cookies so expensive?

Classic Italian Pignoli Cookies are made with almond paste and pine nuts, both of which are expensive ingredients. Pine nuts are one of the most expensive nuts in the world, due to the fact they are slow growing and labor intensive to harvest.

Why did my Pignoli Cookies become hard?

A longer baking time will result in a crunchy cookie. They also get harder over time after baking. For soft, chewy Pignoli Cookies, bake just until the pine nuts start turning golden.

Can I use marzipan instead of almond paste?

This recipe calls for almond paste. If you want to use marzipan, be sure to use the ingredients listed under Pignoli Cookies Made with Marzipan above.

Can I use something besides pine nuts?

You can use any type of chopped nut to roll the dough balls in or even bake the cookies without nuts.

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich’s Nonna Tell Me a Story

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More favorite cookies to love:

  • Slice and Bake Cranberry Orange Cookies
  • Browned Butter Pecan Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms
  • Brown Butter Toffee Cookies
  • Italian Almond Paste Cookies (Almond Macaroons)
  • Lemon White Chocolate Cookies
  • White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies
  • White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
  • Double Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
  • Triple Chocolate Cookies
  • Soft and Chewy Funfetti Cookies

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Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe (with VIDEO) (12)

Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe

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4.9 from 16 reviews

  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 23 minutes
  • Yield: 33 cookies 1x
Print Recipe

Description

Classic Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe – soft, chewy almond flavored centers with a crispy, crunchy exterior that’s covered in golden, toasted pine nuts. Super quick and easy to make!

Ingredients

Scale

  • 16oz (454g) almond paste
  • 1 ½ cups (298g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites (90g)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6oz (170g) pine nuts
  • Optional: powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Break up the almond paste into 1 inch pieces and put it in the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and salt and pulse until combined, about 30 seconds. It should resemble corn meal.
  3. Add ⅔ of the egg whites and process about 30 seconds. Slowly add what is needed from the remaining egg whites until a sticky dough is formed. The dough will be wet and sticky, but you will be able to roll it into balls between your hands.
  4. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into 1 inch balls, about 25 grams each.
  5. Roll the balls in the pine nuts. The stickiness of the dough will help the nuts stick.
  6. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake until the nuts are starting to turn golden, about 15-18 minutes. Don’t overbake.
  7. Optional: Dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar.

Notes

Don’t overbake the cookies. Bake until the nuts are just starting to turn golden. You want the insides to remain moist and chewy.

Use the correct size of eggs. Large egg whites should weigh about 30 grams each. Too little egg whites and the dough will be dry and the pine nuts won’t stick. Too much, and the dough will be too sticky and difficult to roll into a ball. If you don’t have large eggs on hand or live outside the US, be sure to measure your egg whites.

Adding ⅔ of the egg whites first, then adding the remainder as necessary prevents the dough from becoming too wet and loose.

If you find the dough isn’t sticky enough for the pine nuts to adhere, dip the rolled dough balls into beaten egg white before rolling in pine nuts.

If the dough seems too sticky, roll the balls with wet hands.

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 18
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

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Easy Italian Pignoli Cookies Recipe (with VIDEO) (2024)

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