Best Christmas Cookie: Pignolis (Recipe Included)

At my Girlfriends Wrapping Party, I sent Christmas cookies home with guests.


The next day, a friend texted me this picture the next day with the words, “Best. Cookie. Ever.”


Pignoli Cookie for Christmas - Birthday Butler


The sweet in question? Pignolis.


Made most often at Christmastime, this sweet, chewy cookie is rolled in pine nuts. (It turns out that 18-20 species of pine trees have edible seeds which are called pine nuts.)


Pignolis have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid in NJ. They were considered the crown jewel of an Italian bakery, not just for their delicious flavor, but because their two primary ingredients, almond paste and pine nuts, are among the most expensive in a baker's pantry.


With apologies to Coco Chanel’s famous quote:


When you look at a cookie tray, the pignoli isn’t the one you’ll notice first. After tasting it, the pignoli will be the one you'll never forget.


If you’re looking for a cookie that will add some va-va-voom to your Christmas holidays, it’s this one. Its flavors are widely enjoyed, yet very few bakers include it on a holiday cookie tray. 


I think they should.


The recipe below is adapted from Lidia Bastianich. Her original recipe calls for 2 tsp orange zest, but I've found people (including me!) preferred them without the orange flavor.


Lidia's Pignoli Cookies

14-16oz almond paste
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup pine nuts
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pulse the almond paste and sugar in a food processor until it is broken up into small pieces.
3. Add egg whites and process until smooth.
4. Shape the dough into small balls and roll in pine nuts.
5. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
6. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing.
7. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Lisa's notes

  • Yes, you really need to get out the food processor to break the almond paste up.
  • Almond paste and pine nuts are pricey ingredients, but these cookies are worth it.
  • I prefer Odense almond paste over Solo. Solo tends to be too liquidy.
  • Other recipes use powdered sugar, but I've found that granulated sugar yields a more delicious texture.
  • You can toast the pine nuts first. It gives them a deeper flavor and the slightly darker color is nice.