If Jamie Oliver is good for anything, it's quick, surprisingly flavorful pasta recipes. The man seems to have an endless trove of pastas that can come together in the time it takes the water to boil. When I found this recipe in his ambitious book Cook with Jamie, in which he insisted that "everyone should make this at least once," I was sold immediately.
Why I Picked This Recipe: While I've found plenty of recipes in the past that offer variations on pesto—that famous Italian sauce of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil—this recipe is in the same spirit but decidedly different. First, parsley is the herb instead of basil. But more importantly, rather than blending all the ingredients into something homogeneous, Jamie calls for mincing the parsley by hand and bashing only half the pine nuts to a paste, then loosening it all with good olive oil. It keeps things rustic and light, and I liked the handmade feel to the dish.
What Worked: The flavors came through wonderfully, with the somewhat aggressive flavor of parsley muted by rich pine nuts and olive oil. The addition of lemon juice and zest added a zippy flavor that elevated the dish significantly. But perhaps my favorite part was the eating experience: because it wasn't blended, the "pesto" broke up into bites of pine nuts coated with fragrant parsley and pecorino scattered throughout the plate, while the olive oil, mashed pine nuts, and pasta cooking water created a luxurious sauce for the noodles. Each bite was different and interesting.
What Didn't: I felt there was too much cheese called for in the recipe, which killed a bit of that lightness. I've lowered the amount in the recipe below to bring it back into balance.
Suggested Tweaks: Besides using less cheese, I would also be cautious with the amount of lemon juice. I began with half the amount called for, and added in just a little bit more. The general idea with a recipe like this is to taste constantly, aiming for balance of richness, acidity, salty, and herbiness. But keep in mind that the heat of the pasta will mute the lemon. Finally, use plenty of pasta water until the sauce is truly luxurious; don't let it get too dry.
Adapted from Cook with Jamie.
- 4 ounces pine nuts
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons
- 1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced (reserve some leaves for topping the pasta)
- 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 ounce Pecorinio cheese, grated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound taglietelle pasta
In a medium bowl, smash half the pine nuts to a paste. Add the remaining pine nuts whole, along with the lemon zest, parsley, olive oil, and cheeses. Add in lemon juice to taste, aiming for a tarter-than-you'd think flavor (the lemon will be muted once it's mixed with the pasta).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving at least a cup of cooking water before draining.
Return the pasta to the pot and scrape the sauce into the pot. Add in a splash of pasta cooking water and toss the noodles well with tongs to coat them in the sauce. Aim for a luxurious consistency wetter than you'd think; as much as a cup of cooking water might be required. Season to taste with salt and pepper while still in the pot.
Divide the pasta amongst 4 plates and top with the whole parsley leaves. Serve immediately.