Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)

by Dorothy Reinhold on December 5, 2011

Print This Post Print This Post Pignoli Cookies

Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these are an almond-lover’s dream.

That would be me — the almond lover. I believe most things can be improved with the judicious application of almond extract. Pine nuts are close behind. Need to dress something up? Fling some toasted pine nuts at it, for crunch and flavor.

So Pignoli Cookies featuring a half pound of pungent almond paste AND pine nuts? My idea of heaven!

Karen making steamed clams and linguine for her Christmas Eve Italian menu a few years ago. She’s wearing her “utterly embarrassing but beloved yucky green smock with pink elephants on it. I have no idea where my mother got it but I’m sure it was hers at some point. When I put that on, everyone knows I’m doing some serious cooking!”

This recipe comes from business writer Karen E. Klein, a former work colleague from my early newspaper era, who married a newspaperman I later worked with at a different paper.

But never mind how I know her, though…the important thing is she’s a great cook!

She found the recipe online after sifting through a bunch of recipes. She makes them for Christmas cookie platters, and because they are her husband’s favorite type of cookie.

“He likes the ones you can get at Italian bakeries, but I never liked those because I find them very dry. When his relatives brought a whole suitcase full of home-baked Italian cookies (probably 12 or 14 different kinds) to a family wedding, I was hooked and wanted to try making my own. Those cookies were to die for! Of course those ladies never share their family-secret recipes so I just looked online.

“I loved them because I adore almond flavor and I found these sweet and chewy, not at all dry like the bakery kind. I got the almond paste at Claro’s Italian market in San Gabriel (Calif.).”

Ah yes, Claro’s. I know it well. There’s a Claro’s outpost in Upland (Calif.) that I frequent when I am visiting my mother; it’s a chain of Italian markets throughout the San GabrielValley.

Karen’s advises that although these cookies are yummy, they can be temperamental. To wit, she has advice you must heed:

  • Chill the batter
  • Use quick-release foil or else they are very hard to work with and they stick badly when you try to get them off after baking.

Platter of pignoli cookies

Recipe: Pignoli Cookies (Pine Nut Cookies)

Summary: Crunchy, chewy, sweet and nutty, these Pine Nut Cookies are an almond-lover’s dream, and a great companion on a Christmas cookie plate. 

Pignoli aerial single cookieIngredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 pound almond paste (NOT marzipan or almond cake filling)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites


  1. Toast pine nuts briefly to bring out flavor. You can do this easily in a dry small skillet, stirring frequently over low heat.
  2. Break up almond paste in a food processor until granular. Gradually add sugar while processing.
  3. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites gently into almond/sugar mixture.
  4. Chill dough to make it easier to handle.
  5. While dough is chilling, prepare a no-sided cookie sheet by lining it with quick-release foil. If you don’t have that, you may use regular foil or parchment paper, lightly misted with nonstick spray.
  6. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Press pine nuts into tops of cookies.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes before removing from foil and placing on a rack to cool completely. They will keep several days in an air-tight container. That’s if you can stay away from them.
  8. Makes 30 cookies.

Quick notes

Be sure to use almond paste, not marzipan or almond filling.

Use all the pine nuts, distributed among all 30 cookies.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 30
Culinary tradition: Italian
My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

Pignoli cookie closeup

Previous post:

Next post: