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Pignoli (Pine Nut Cookies): Traditional Italian Cookie Recipe

Pignoli, a type of macaroon, is an almond-flavored cookie topped with pine nuts (pignoli in Italian.) Typically, they contain no flour. Because they are made with almond paste (or almonds) and pine nuts – both expensive ingredients – the cookies are considered a special luxury.

Pignoli (Pine Nut Cookies): ingredients, directions, and a special baking tip from The Elf to make this traditional Italian cookie recipe.

Prep time: 10-20 minutes

Bake time: 22-25 minutes

Makes about 24-30 cookies


2 cups slivered almonds

½ cup granulated sugar

1 cup powdered sugar

3 egg whites, lightly beaten

½ cup pine nuts


  • Preheat oven to 300º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • Separate eggs. Set aside egg yolks to use in another recipe. Use a whisk to lightly beat the egg whites until they begin to froth. (To produce a lighter, meringue-like texture, beat the egg whites with an electric mixture on medium speed.)

  • Set almonds and granulated sugar in a food processor. Process on high until almonds are very finely ground, pausing once or twice to scrape the bowl’s sides, about 3-43 minutes. Add powdered sugar and process until it is completely incorporated. Pour in eggs. Process the mixture until a smooth dough forms.

  • Insert a medium open-star tip in a pastry bag or cookie press. Fill the bag or press with the dough. Pipe one-inch mounds onto prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Gently press 10-15 pine nuts onto the top of each mound.

  • Bake the cookies for 22-25 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

  • Remove baking sheet from the oven. Allow cookies to cool completely. Remove cookies from parchment paper to a wire rack.

  • Store cookies in an airtight container with waxed paper in between layers.

A Special Baking Tip from The Elf

Pignoli are a type of meringue. If you lightly beat the egg whites before adding them to the almond mixture, the cookies will have a cake-like texture. To make them with a lighter, puffy texture, beat the eggs until they nearly form soft peaks. Then fold the egg whites into the almond mixture with a spatula, rather than in the food processor, to maintain the air in the batter.

Cookie Fun Fact

Pine nuts, to the surprise of many, are the edible seeds from (yes!) pine trees. Two pine nut varieties predominate in baking: the Mediterranean (or Italian) pine nut, an oblong, lightly-flavored seed and the Chinese pine nut, a triangular seed with a stronger flavor. Harvesting pine nuts is time- and labor-intensive. Once pine cones are collected, they are heated to open up their scales so seeds can be extracted.

The Elf recommends these other Italian cookie recipes

Cherry Biscotti: a fresh version of a traditional Italian cookie recipe

Cranberry Almond Biscotti: low-carb, low fat Italian cookie ...

Italian Cookie Recipes: crown jewels in Italian confections ...

More Italian cookie ideas on our Pinterest board ...

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