Italian Pignoli Cookies
This past weekend was one of the most fun weekends ever! I had a girl’s weekend in NJ with my Mom, Aunts, cousin, sister (and one little boy nephew) and the matriarch of the Drago family, my grandmother. I’ve been waiting for this trip for months! Not only to hang out with family, but to learn some of my all time favorite family recipes! I want to know the in’s and out’s of these traditional family recipes so I can one day, pass them down to my kids too!
There were about 10 different recipes I wanted to make. But considering my grandmother just had knee surgery, I figured 10 recipes was a little much (that’s why I’m coming back soon Grammie!). I settled for two of my favorite – well…favorites of the favorites. The first being the infamous pignoli cookies (pronounced pin – yoli). They’re more or less worth their weight in gold and are only made on special occasions.
Pignoli nuts or pine nuts are super creamy, buttery nuts that coat the outside of this light almond cookie. The inside is somewhat chewy almond paste dough that’s sweet and light and floral and absolutely perfect! Pignoli cookies are a very traditional Italian treat and as I learned, quite simple to make. Which, by the way, means there is absolutely NO reason why these cookies are not made on a regular basis! These will now be an “all the time” cookie in this house. All the time!
While quick to make, the only downside of these cookies are that pine nuts aren’t the cheapest nut out there. But if you go to a Costco or Sam’s Club you can actually get a pretty good deal on them. As for the almond paste, you can definitely purchase it at a well stocked grocery store. But according to the pignoli cookie authorities – aka my grandmother and her sister – try to buy it from a local bakery. It’s a better quality. I’m not sure on that, but I’d go with the Italian grandmothers. They know everything :).
- 1 1/2 pounds almond past (ask a local bakery for some – it’s the best quality)
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 egg whites (room temperature)
- 1 pound pignoli or pine nuts
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Beat egg whites on high with a hand or stand mixture until they reach stiff peaks. Slowly add in the sugar, followed by the vanilla extract until fully combined. Set aside
- With your fingers, crumble the almond paste. Combine with egg white mixture with hands until fairly well combined. Use hand or stand mixture to continue mixing the almond paste with the egg whites until fully combined and there are no lumps. The dough will be sticky and wet.
- Pour pignoli nuts onto a large flat plate.
- Roll into small balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter and then roll to coat in the pine nuts. Flatten slightly and arrange on the parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake cookies for 17-20 minutes. The cookies should not brown, however they may turn just very lightly golden brown on the edges. Cookies will set and harden once they are cool. Enjoy