Pignoli Cookies


It just wouldn’t be Christmas time without cookies. Right?!

Thanksgiving : Pie :: Christmas : Cookies!

And that will be the last time I use an SAT problem format to reference food.  Sorry about that guys.


Cookies make the holiday season go ’round, and these pignoli cookies are sweet and chewy and magical. Magic is essential this time of year. Don’t let anyone tell you different.


What makes these cookies so magical you ask? Well for starters, it it only takes 5 ingredients to make them – pine nuts, almond paste, sugar, egg whites and salt. PLUS they’re naturally gluten and dairy free. 


Woah, woah, woah. Stop the train. Hold up. What was that??

Normally, the phrase “gluten/dairy-free cookies” would send me running away in fear. But I promise, the only thing scary about these cookies is that it’s stupid easy to eat the whole batch in one sitting.


Pignoli (Italian for pine nut) cookies are a classic, old-school Italian confection. They have a mellow almondy flavor and an insanely addictive chew, with just enough texture and toastiness from the pine nuts.


Bought at a bakery, they’ll cost you a pretty penny – sometime going for more than $30/lb! For cookies!! That’s crazytown.

The almond paste and pine nuts can be a little pricey, but baking these at home will easily run you less than half of that. Plus, they’re pretty effortless to make and hold up well in a cookie jar. That is, if they last you that long.


Making these at home might just be the smartest thing you do this entire holiday season.

Plus, I bet Santa will be stoked to find something a little different, and a little more magical, than the usual sugar cookie this year.


Pignoli Cookies

I learned this recipe about 8 or so years ago from an amazing lady named Michelle when we worked together at an Italian Market. She did a lot of the cooking, while I mostly talked to people about fancy cheeses and olive oils.

But when we were slow, I would get in on the cooking too. She would make the dough and I would form the cookies and bake them off, until one day I had her show me how she made it. I was dumbfounded at how easy it was and how few ingredients there were. These cookies taste SO much more complex.

There are lots of variations of this recipe out there, some including everything from baking powder and flour to honey and confectioners sugar. I still like this one the best.

Yield: About 30 cookies
Time: 1 hour (45 minutes inactive)

8 oz Almond Paste – NOT marzipan! (recommended: Solo brand)
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pine nuts (NOT toasted)

Crumble the almond paste into a food processor and pulse until it is the texture of sand. Add the sugar, egg whites and salt and process until smooth – about 15 seconds or so. Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out into another bowl and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This will help make the dough easier to roll into balls.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with oiled/sprayed parchment paper or a silpat (these bad boys can STICK). Pour the pine nuts on to a plate and have a bowl of cold water next to it.

Remove the dough from the fridge and use a teaspoon to scoop out a small piece. Wet your hands a little so they don’t stick, and roll it around to form a ball. Drop the ball on to the pine nuts and press to flatten and coat on both sides. Be careful not to coat it with too many nuts or you’ll run out before finishing. Lay the cookie on the baking sheet and repeat until all the dough and nuts are gone.

Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes until they’re golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely before serving – they’re better that way.


7 thoughts on “Pignoli Cookies”

  1. Oh, Coley. Aversa’s is going to put out a contract on you! This will be the first time in six years that we don’t buy about a pound of these suckers from that wonderfully overpriced bakery. I’m making my mom’s old fashioned Icebox Cake for the grand kids on Christmas eve – but these will be for the grown ups to share with a rich dark coffee Americano and Anisette. Ciao!

    1. Aversa’s will be fine! Their bread is ok, but I’m not a fan of their pastries – I think they cheap out on ingredients. Just my humble opinion! Hope you make these this year, they are too easy!

      1. Yep. Picked up the ingredients yesterday at the Ack-a-me. I’ll be making Icebox cake and these babies on the 23rd. Merry Christmas, girl. Rock on.

  2. Hi Coley! Thanks for your recipe for these cookies. Can’t wait to try it and maybe even give them to my son-in-law for Christmas. He gets them from Reading Terminal and they are expensive! His favorite…have a Merry Christmas. Tina H.

    1. Hi Tina!! I so hope you make these, they are fool-proof!! And much much less expensive than buying from a bakery! Your son-in-law will love them. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Hope all is well.

  3. Just thought of one of my favorite things – pampered chef chopper. I have arthritis in my index finger and sometimes it’s difficult to chop onions, carrots, garlic, etc. works great.

  4. I believe you make these cookies and a bunch of other yummy cookies for Christmas one year, I am going to try the recipe! Wish me luck. I hope these are fool proof!

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