I'm all about simple pasta dishes, so this one, which combines two sauces at the very last second, originally struck me as needlessly extravagant. But I couldn't help but be intrigued. One sauce is a bare-bones tomato sauce with lots of onions, while the other is a puree of nuts with some garlic and mint. Not only are the sauces kept separated until the end, but they are made in distinctly different ways—what an odd concept.
The dish is intensely flavored—rich from the blended nuts, while acidic and sweet from the tomatoes and onions. I kept expecting to pick out sausage or another meat that would explain the unbelievably rich flavor. It's really that good.
I found this recipe, which comes from a Manhattan restaurant called Sistina, in a New York Times article about people ordering dishes off the menu. I'd never heard of the dish before, or any using the same technique, but it has quickly catapulted to the top of my favorite pasta dishes.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 cup mixed nuts, like pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, or hazelnuts
- Handful fresh mint
- 1/2 pound bucatini
- Parmesan, or other grating cheese like pecorino
- Salt and pepper
Start with the tomato sauce. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Then add 1 clove of garlic and all of the whole tomatoes. Break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toss the rest of the garlic and olive oil, and all the red chili flakes, nuts, and 4 leaves of mint into a food processor. Process until it becomes a relatively smooth paste. Season with black pepper.
Cook the pasta in large pot of salted water according to the directions on the back of the box. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the large pot and pour in both of the sauces. Stir well until the pasta is coated in the sauce. Add the pasta water if mixture seems too dry. Garnish with reserved mint leaves, season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate a little Parmesan on top.