Spaghetti con Pignoli Arrosti (with Roasted Pine Nuts) is my own creation, but the Italian name gives it a bit more gravitas, which I think it deserves. The secret to the incredibly rich flavor of this pasta begins and ends with the roasted pine nuts. I toast them to a deep mahogany brown, which results in a robust flavor that permeates the entire dish.
I came up with this recipe accidentally— while I was assembling my Pasta Primavera Packets I added the pine nuts to the pasta first and I got the strongest urge to just stop right there and eat.
Of course pine nuts aren’t really nuts at all, they’re the seeds of the pine tree. They have a creamy sweet flavor when raw, but toasting brings out their complex rich flavor. It’s a little like the difference between raw and toasted sesame seeds, and if you’ve ever had toasted sesame oil, you’ll know the kind of intensity I’m talking about. I usually toast nuts and seeds in a dry pan on the stove or in the oven, but for this pasta I heat them in a good amount of olive oil, and the nuts and oil together make the ‘sauce’. The oil will actually turn a nice deep brown, but don’t worry, it’s not burned, it’s been colored by the toasted nuts.
This dish is about as simple as pasta gets; so simple that you’ll be surprised at how satisfying it is. I leave the parsley leaves whole, and shave little chunks of good Parmesan cheese right onto the finished dish so you can just toss and eat. It’s the ultimate effortless-chic little lunch for two.
This dish has a nice combination of textures, as well. Make sure to cook your pasta correctly, just to the al dente stage, and it will be slightly chewy. The pine nuts have a unique soft crunch, and finally there’s the firm bite of the thin chunks of Parmesan.
Toss half of the pasta with the hot nut and oil mixture, and spoon the rest of the sauce over each individual serving. This way you won’t lose all the nuts to the bottom of the pan or bowl.
If you like pine nuts I highly recommend trying this, it’s a winner. Pine nuts are expensive at regular grocery stores, so try Trader Joe’s or Costco for a better value.