While we all wait patiently for the summer tomato season to begin, we can still enjoy the pleasures of pasta covered in savory sauces. This recipe is an adaptation of the Calzone filling that includes pine nuts, raisins, and chicory or other greens. In a fit of creativity and with a handful of Swiss chard, I decided to experiment with these ingredients for a spaghetti dish. It turned out to be extremely delicious. The sweet raisins and creamy pine nuts complemented the greens and spaghetti noodles perfectly.
Italian Pine Nuts
According to sources, pine nuts have been cultivated in Europe for 5,000 years. In Italian dishes, the pine nut makes an appearance in Genevese pesto and Biscotti al pinoli (Pignoli cookies) among many other specialties.
During a trip to the North End in Boston, I stopped in Polcari’s Coffee, an establishment in the heart of Little Italy since 1932. I chatted with Bobby Polcari and took in the floor-to-ceiling array of coffees, teas, spices, legumes, candies…. the list goes on… Along the front counter, several little jars and dishes were filled with samples to taste. Licorice candies, and two types of pine nuts. I asked Bobby, “You mean there are different types of pine nuts?” “Yep,” he answered. “The pine nuts we are used to in the US are actually from China or other parts of Asia. The European variety has a much more creamy consistency and makes for a great pesto.” Huh. Good to know. From that day forward, when I can find them, I buy the European-style pine nuts ( yes they are more expensive but so worth it!)
Spaghetti with Chard, Pine Nuts, and Raisins
- 1 large bunch Swiss Chard (400 grams)
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tbsp. pine nuts (40 grams)
- 4 tbsp. raisins (60 grams)
- 1 pinch chilli flakes
- 4 tsp. lemon juice
- 3 tsp. salt
- Wash chard and remove stems from leaves. Chop the stems and leaves and keep in separate piles. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tsp. of salt, and add spaghetti. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
- In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and add the chili flakes, pine nuts, and raisins. Saute and toss until nuts begin to toast, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped chard stems to the pine nuts and raisins and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add the chard leaves, 1 tsp. salt, and stir. Continue to cook on low heat for 2-3 more minutes until the chard leaves are soft, but not soggy.
- Drain the spaghetti (retain 1/2 cup pasta cooking water) and add cooked spaghetti to chard mixture. Stir to coat the spaghetti and add a bit of the pasta water to thicken the sauce. Taste the sauce and add lemon juice a bit at a time to taste.
Summer virtual cooking classes are now available! Click here to learn about June’s Piadina class and July’s Italian cookie class. “See” you there!