Healthy Almond Pignoli Cookies: In Memory of My Father-In-Law
Rest In Peace Santo Nolfo (1923-2013)
First off, I’d like to wish all my family, friends, patients, clients and followers a very HAPPY and HEALTHY holiday season. Remember that being around the people we love gives us good feelings that promote mental health and well-being. Cherish these days of rest with people you care about – it’s good for you!
One way to spoil yourself around this time of year is a special holiday treat. My husband’s father, Santo Nolfo, passed away last week at age 90. He loved all kinds of food – especially those recipes cooked by his wife Jeanie, who left us in April of 2012. In honor of my father-in-law, who was Sicilian, here is a classic Sicilian cookie recipe he loved. I think these are just as good as the ones from the Italian bakeries from his neighborhood in Brooklyn!
What’s Great About These Cookies:
No flour. No gluten (if you use a gluten-free almond paste like Solo). No butter or added fats. 2 grams of protein per delicious cookie!
With the timing given below, they will be a bit chewy, but of course it depends on how big you make them. Cook them a bit longer if you like them crisp. They are not carb- or sugar-free, as they contain a small 7 grams of sugar* but more nutritious than most delicious cookies!
Healthy Pignoli (Pine Nut Cookies) (adapted from Lidia’s Bastianich’s Italy in America)
Yield: About 30 Cookies
- 14 ounces/2 x 7-ounce tubes almond paste (NOT Marzipan, which has less almond and more added sugars)
- 1 cup evaporated cane juice crystals (use regular white cane sugar if not available)
- 2 large egg whites
- Finely grated zest of one large organic orange (to get just the orange part and no white pith, use a microplane)
- 1-1½ cups whole pine nuts (Enough to fill a small bowl so you can dredge the sticky dough. You can always put the leftovers back into a sealed container or bag.) Use slivered almonds or pistachios if someone has a pine nut allergy.
(* To cut the sugar content, this time I used 1/2 c. monkfruit (luo han guo) extract crystals and only 1/2 cane juice crystals. Monkfruit is a Chinese fruit that is sweet but low in carbohydrates. It worked! The cookies tasted the same and were just slightly more chewy. I found it right at the Big Y!)
- 2 large baking sheet(s) covered with parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Hand crumble almond paste into the work bowl of a food processor.
- With the motor running, sprinkle in half the sugar and then process until the paste is in fine crumbs. (Without the sugar, a sticky paste will not crumble in the processor but will stick together and you don’t want that at this stage.)
- Add the rest of the sugar, the egg whites and orange zest. Process to make a smooth dough, about 20 to 30 seconds.
- Spread the pine nuts on a plate or small shallow bowl.
- Wet your hands.
- Form the dough into 1 to 2-tablespoon-sized balls (If you want smaller cookies use only 1 tablespoon size) by rolling in in between the palms of your hands, then roll the dough in the pine nuts until coated, then place on baking sheets.
- Press down centers to slightly flatten.
- Bake until lightly golden and springy to the touch, about 13 to 15 minutes. The pine nuts and the cookie surface should be a light brown.
- Let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.
Thanks to my patient JS for sharing the recipe.
Dr Emily Nolfo