Think of a recipe that includes pine nuts as a key ingredient. Pesto probably comes to mind first but after that, it's hard to come up with another. As far as culinary nuts go, the pine nut, or pignoli, is somewhat underappreciated.
But there's a lot to love about it. The pignoli has a mild, nutty flavor and a high oil content which gives it a smooth, silky texture. For some reason, though, the pine nut seems to get less play in baked goods than say, the walnut or pecan.
There is one major exception: Italian Pine Nut Cookies, also known as Amaretti con Pignoli. These have a bit of a cult following in some circles, no doubt due to their sweet and rich flavor, with a soft almond center and a toasted pine nut crust. Two nuts in one cookie? Sign me up!
You can find Amaretti con Pignoli in almost any Italian bakery, but tracing their history is a bit more difficult. While different versions of the cookies are readily available, no one seems to agree on how the cookies got their start.
According to one piece of lore, these cookies were first baked in eighteenth century Sicily for the Cardinal of Milan. The recipe requires expensive ingredients, befitting the idea that this was a treat saved for wealthy and highly respected guests. Even today the recipe's two most crucial ingredients, almond paste and pine nuts, are pricey enough to classify Amaretti con Pignoli as a special treat. This is probably one of the reasons they're most frequently served around the holidays.
As a Jewish guy from Philadelphia, I won't even attempt to re-interpret this recipe. If you're interested in baking them at home yourself, here's a recipe from "the mother" of all Italian mamas, Lidia Bastianich.
More Recipes with Pine Nuts
- Pine Nut Almond Cake »
- Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Sage, and Pine Nuts »
- Summertime Pasta with Pine Nuts and Lemon »
- Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts »
- Zucchini, Pine Nut, and Golden Raisin Salad »
- Frankie's Meatballs »
- Warm Chicken Salad with Arugula, Capers, and Pine Nuts »
- Pasta with Sardines and Pine Nuts »