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Hi there,

When I was a newly minted member of an Italian American family, I learned quickly that any celebration necessitated a homemade cookie tray. And the matriarchs in the family made these trays with such competitive spirit that it should have been an Olympic event.

The gold ribbon on the cookie trays was the Pignoli Nut Cookie. A Pignoli Nut Cookie has an intense almond flavor with moist, chewy centers and crisp exteriors studded with pine nuts. They are, hands down, my husband’s favorite cookie.

Since nothing says loving like something from the oven, I made a batch for Valentine’s Day and, probably to the horror of our dearly departed Italian American matriarchs, I decided to make them into thumbprint cookies. They turned out delicious and, I think, a touch prettier.

Give this recipe a try the next time you want to make a different cookie. It is very yummy and super easy to make.

PIGNOLI THUMBPRINT COOKIES - a Valentine's Day treat

PIGNOLI THUMBPRINT COOKIES – a Valentine’s Day treat

Recipe by Bernadette
Course: DessertCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy Peasy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 and 1/2 cups 2 and 1/2 pignoli nuts (pine nuts)

  • 7 ounce tube 7 almond paste (do not substitute marzipan)

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 sugar

  • 2 large 2 white of 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 vanilla extract

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 salt

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 raspberry jam or flavor of choice


  • Heat oven to 325 degrees. Pulse 1/4 cup of the pine nuts in a food processor until coarsely ground. Slice the almond paste into small discs and add to the food processor. Process until just mixed. Add the sugar and process until crumbly. Add the egg whites and vanilla and process until the dough is mixed. Add the flour and salt and process until completely blended and smooth.
  • Pour the remaining pine nuts into a shallow bowl. Using moist hands take about a teaspoon of the batter and form into a ball. Coat the ball completely with pine nuts.
  • Place the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. The cookies should be light brown.
  • Place the cookies on a rack for 5 minutes. Make a thumbprint depression in each cookie and add to the depression approximately 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

32 responses to “PIGNOLI THUMBPRINT COOKIES – a Valentine’s Day treat#WBOYC”

  1. V.M.Sang – UK – I was born and educated in the north west of England. I trained as a teacher in Manchester and taught in Salford, Lancashire, Hampshire and Croydon. I write fantasy novels currently. I also make cards, knit, crochet, tat, do cross stitch and paint. I enjoy walking on the Downs, cycling and kayaking. I do not enjoy housework, but like cooking.
    V.M.Sang says:

    They sound lovely. I adore almonds, and would probably make my own almond paste for these.

  2. Darlene – British Columbia, Canada – Writer of children's stories, short stories and travel articles. https://twitter.com/#!/supermegawoman http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=201634059868404&id=631897250&ref=notif&notif_t=like#!/pages/Darlene-Foster-Writer/362236842733
    Darlene says:

    These look yummy. Our German Canadian matriarchs were also very competitive when it came to baking. it should be an Olympic event! Happy Valentine’s Day!

  3. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, chocolate, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. I cook from scratch, and try not to use anything that has ingredients I cannot pronounce! After many years of daily serving up local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most full-fat dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies, and I try to educated myself about our food sources! I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy. I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all! XXXOOO Dorothy
    Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen says:

    These sound amazing! Love anything almond, Bernie, and if you add pine nuts and a little dab of jam, I’m there!

  4. sammee44 – Victoria, BC – I am a West Coast Reader and Writer who enjoys the big and little things in Life. My philosophy is–if you don't enjoy those precious moments and savour the joy, then how can you appreciate the little things that crosses your daily path?
    sammee44 says:

    Will be making it for sure—it looks terrific! 🙂

  5. Love pine nuts! Your version of pignoli sound and look fabulous, Bernadette.

  6. Such pretty cookies! Pine nuts are a favorite of mine, so I’m sure I’d love these. 🙂

  7. Hi Bernadette, these pine nut cookies look and sound delicious. Sharing.

  8. D. Wallace Peach – 30 Miles beyond the edge of civilization, Oregon – I'm an adventurer in writing, peering under rocks in my garden for secret magic. I can't stop writing. My stories want to explode from my head. They demand my attention and surge from my fingertips faster than I can put them to paper. I love what I do.
    D. Wallace Peach says:

    I like intense almond flavor, Bernadette. These sound wonderful and I like your special thumbprint touch, even if the Italian matriarchs are throwing up their hands in heaven. 🙂 I’m sure your husband was delighted. Happy Valentine’s Day. <3

  9. Awakening Wonders – Everyday life is filled with wondrous things and embraceable moments, but only if we allow ourselves to be fully awakened. I invite you to join me as I share passionate life adventures and ramblings that awaken my spirit. I look forward to awakening your senses to the simple, joyous wonders that are all around us. I feel that we are destined to become soulful adventurers!
    Awakening Wonders says:

    Pine nuts – I never thought about using them in cookies!

  10. these sound right up my alley:) I love pine nuts. i wonder what a tube of almond paste is? Never heard of it nor seen it. And i am very curious as to why marzipan is not suitable? cheers sherry

    • Here you go:

      The Main Differences

      While they both are made of almonds, marzipan and almond paste are completely different creatures. Marzipan is smooth, sweet, and often dyed and molded into shapes. It’s also used to cover sweets much like fondant and is sometimes eaten as is. Almond paste, however, is coarser, less sweet, and used as an ingredient or filling for baked goods.

      Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?

      The texture and flavor of the two are different enough that they shouldn’t be substituted for one another.

      I thought I would give you a well written explanation from thekitchen.com.

  11. Retirement Reflections – Vancouver Island, BC – Prior to retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing China for fourteen years (Middle School Principal/Deputy Director at The Western Academy of Beijing). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope that you enjoy reading these reflections, and will be willing to share your own.
    Retirement Reflections says:

    Hi, Bernadette – Thank you for joining us for What’s Been On Your Calendar. These Pignoli Thumbprint Cookies look and sound delicious. (I wish that I had one to bite into right now)! I greatly appreciate you sharing these with us.

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