This recipe is from my Italian born mom who has been baking pignoli cookies for over 40 years! These chewy, delicious cookies contain only 3 major ingredients and no flour. This recipe does not require almond paste, it uses almond flour instead so it is much less expensive to make.
What are pignoli cookies?
A variety of Italian cookies were made by mom and many other Italian American families in the Philadelphia area, including this pignoli cookie, which is a “no almond paste needed” recipe – much cheaper to make! Another very popular Italian cookie is something called the Italian wedding cookie.
The pignoli cookies are one of my mom’s speciality (probably because it is her favorite cookie). She has been making this recipe for sooooo many years that I’ve lost count! I’m estimating that she makes about 1000 of these cookies a year!
These cookies seem fancy (pignoli is Italian for pine nut) but they are incredibly easy to make at home. And, although they cost a small fortune at the bakery (if you can even find them), they are not expensive to make at home (unless you are using a recipe that calls for almond paste, which is expensive).
There are only 3 main ingredients (almond flour, sugar, eggs) plus almond extract and of course, pine nuts (pignoli) to top them.
I was surprised to see that dough for these cookies is rather stiff (see photo below) but it is NOT dry. You may have to add an extra egg if your dough is too dry. My mom recommends a ratio of 1 pound almond flour: 1 pound sugar: 2 large eggs. Add the extract and pine nuts topping and viola, you have these cookies!
Forming the cookies
This recipe is enough to make 40 cookies (2 half sheet pans)
My mom seems to be able to fit a good amount of the unbaked cookies (20 cookies!) per ½ sheet pan:
As you see here, they don’t expand too too much after they are baked (they get about 30% bigger). I was concerned that they would spread and attach but they didn’t.
These are also a great option for those who follow a gluten-free diet, since they do not contain any wheat flour. These are great anytime you want a little treat!
Place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.
Store at room temperature for up to 1 day, chill for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Other Favorite Italian Cookies:
- 4 ¾ cups (448 g) almond flour (~1 pound total)
- 2 ¼ cups (466.67 g) sugar (~1 pound total)
- 2 large (2 large) eggs
- 1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon) almond extract
To top cookies
- 1 large (1 large) egg white
- ½ cup (67.5 g) raw pignoli nuts (~ 4 ounces)
To make the cookie dough
- Preheat oven to 340 degrees
- Add eggs and about half of the sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy (see photos)
- Add flour and remaining sugar and almond extract and beat until everything has been well incorporated. The texture will be somewhat stiff but not overly dry (see photos)
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
Forming and topping the pignoli cookies
- Form cookies into round balls that are a bit smaller than the size of a golfball
- In a small container, add the egg white with about a tablespoon of water and mix. In another small flat container, add the pignoli nuts
- Dip the top of each cookie into the egg white mixture, then dip into the nuts, slightly flatten the ball into a cookie shape, and place the cookie nut side up, on the lined cookie sheet
- Bake cookies for about 20 to 22 minutes until just slightly golden. Do NOT overbake as the cookies will be dry. Begin checking your cookies after about 15 minutes as oven temperatures/power may vary.
Lotus Hoey says
This made twice as many cookies than expected- I rolled mine smaller about 1”.
I also added the yolk from the egg used for the egg wash. Still came out great! The dough is stiff as instructions stated. Love this easy 3 ingredient recipe. First batch came out dark since I left cookies baking for 22 mins. Next batch came out in 20 mins. & was perfect!
Thanks for the recipe. I see only one photo. What step is pictured? Is the flour and sugar beaten in until just combined or longer?
The final dough is pictured to show you the consistency – just beat until combined
Hi, can the dough be frozen? I’d like to make in advance for an upcoming wedding cookie table. TYSM! Love all of your recipes!!!
Thank you! I haven’t tried freezing the dough but the baked cookies freeze perfectly!
I love this recipe because it uses almond flour instead of almond paste. A perfect ratio of almond to sugar – delicious and chewy! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
Thank you! Agree, it’s sooo much easier to just use almond flour 🙂
Peggy Beam says
These are my favorite cookies
Never made them ..cant wait to
Try!! Thank u for using Almond Flour
It should be good
Maria. Do i use granulated sugar, or confectionery sugar? Or maybe half and half. Fran
I use all granulated 😀
Puja Sen says
Hi! Are these going to be chewy?
they are not cake-like, so I’d say yes, more chewy than not.
These are definitely going to be a staple cookie in my house. Everyone loves them but they’re so expensive to buy from the bakery. Now that I’ve made them, I will be making them regularly for my family.
Awesome!! Yes much much cheaper to make at home 👍🏼
Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now, this is really the best pignoli recipe I have found, just like the bakery instead of the almond paste ones. Everyone loves them. Thank you so much for sharing!
I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I agree it’s just like the Italian bakeries and it’s not hard to make – win, win! 🙂
W as perfect just like the bakery only better. Will use all the time
Noreen Hofmann says
Just finished my first batch and these cookies came out perfect. Delish! And thanks so much for an awesome gluten free treat…all of the family can enjoy, esp my daughter who suffers with celiac❤
Paula McIlvain says
These are delicious! I used the one pound bag of blanched almond meal from Trader Joe’s. My oven does not set to 340 so it was at 350. Baked for about 20-22 minutes. Great gluten free cookie.
I’m so glad you liked them! Thanks for tip about oven time for others with similar ovens
Yum! I’ve only made almond paste ones. Eager to try these. I love pignoli. Thanks.
These taste exactly like the ones they sell at my favorite bakery in NJ!! Thank you so much for the recipe!!