What are Pignoli Cookies?
A pignoli cookie is a chewy almond cookie with a crisp exterior edge that is studded with pine nuts (“pignoli”). It is a very popular cookie in Sicily and Southern Italy and frankly in most Italian-American or Sicilian-American communities. Of all the holiday cookies on platters around the holidays, pignoli cookies might be one of the easiest to make and they are flourless, which will please your friends who are gluten-free and looking at all the rest of the cookies on the holiday platter with envy.
What is Almond Paste?
Almond paste is the key ingredient in pignoli cookies. It’s a paste made of ground almonds and sugar along with a binding agent (often egg white). You’ll find almond paste in a box or a tube in the baking aisle, next to the marzipan. In fact, almond paste and marzipan are sometimes confused for each other, but marzipan is quite a bit sweeter than almond paste and doesn’t hold up in baking the way almond paste does. As a result, the two are not interchangeable in this recipe. You will need almond paste.
How to Make Pignoli Cookies
To make pignoli cookies, you simply pulse almond paste in a food processor until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add the sugar and blend. Then add egg whites, a pinch of salt and the zest of an orange and purée again. That is your pignoli dough. Scoop out portions (a small ice cream scoop is perfect for this) and then roll it in the pine nuts, leaving one side uncovered. Place the uncovered side down on your parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 350˚F for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the cookie are lightly browned. Cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack. When they have cooled completely, dust with powdered sugar if you like.
How Long do Pignoli Cookies Last?
Well, that really depends on you, doesn’t it? 😉 They don’t last long in my house, but then no cookie stands a chance in my house. If you have good self-control, pignoli cookies can be stored in an airtight container for a week or two.
Freezing Pignoli Cookies
You could also freeze pignoli cookies if you prefer. Maybe you’re like me with low cookie self-control and the freezer is the best storage option. In that case, don’t dust the cookies with powdered sugar, but freeze them in airtight containers or bags and dust after they have thawed completely. They should last a few months in your freezer, but again… that depends on you!