Saturday, August 07, 2004


This is one of my favorite pasta recipes, again from Pasta e Verdura. I made it on Thursday night. I swear, though, we don't usually consume so much butter. Normally, we burn through bottles of olive oil in no time and have the same one-pound box of butter in the refrigerator for weeks on end. But some strange alignment of the stars has us swimming in butter like the French lately. Not that I'm complaining about that, mind you.

This recipe is quick, easy, and has a simple, perfect confluence of flavors--green, buttery, garlicky, salty, and nutty. Even if, like A, you don't care for green beans, you should try it. Green beans may be one of my favorite vegetables (along with asparagus and zucchini), so I downright crave this pasta. The original recipe has you using haricots verts (thin, French green beans), but--pshaw, I say! Use them if you can find them, but plain old fat farmer's-market or grocery-store green beans work just fine. This recipe is even decent if the beans are below-average quality or out of season.

Man, just writing about this recipe has me wanting to heat up the leftovers sitting in my fridge.

1 pound green beans
salt to taste, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup pine nuts
6 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne pasta
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste

1. Bring two pots of salted water to a boil--4 quarts for cooking the pasta, and "several" for cooking the green beans. (Sometimes, reader, I cheat. If you want a shortcut, you can boil one 4-quart pot of salted water, cook the green beans in it, and then remove them with a slotted spoon and add the pasta.)

2. On another burner, set a large skillet over medium heat for toasting the pine nuts. When the skillet is warm, add the pine nuts and cook them, shaking the pan periodically to turn them, until they're golden-brown, about 5 minutes. (If you're somewhat inattentive, as I am, or if you have a particularly hot stove, as I do, I'd put them over medium-low heat to reduce your chances of accidentally burning them.) When they're toasted, remove them and set them aside in a bowl.

3. While waiting for the water to boil and the pine nuts to toast, wash the beans well, snap their ends off, and cut them (the beans, not the ends), into one-inch segments.

4. When the water in the smaller pot boils, add the beans and cook them until just tender, about 2 minutes. (Unless they're the hugest, toughest beans in the world, don't cook them longer than this. Remember, they'll still continue to cook after you've removed them from the water.) When they're cooked, drain them and set them aside. Meanwhile, when the water in the larger pot boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

5. Add butter to the now-empty skillet you used for the pine nuts, keeping it over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the garlic and saute until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the green beans, pine nuts, 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper, and heat everything through for several minutes (or until the beans are completely tender).

6. BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA (I often miss this step in the recipe, so I'm giving you warning capital letters), use a measuring cup to scoop out about 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water. Then go ahead and drain the pasta.

7. In the skillet (if it's large enough), the pot, or some kind of serving dish (if you're that sort of fancy person), toss the hot pasta with the green bean sauce, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and the reserved cooking water. When everything is well mixed together, portion out the pasta into serving/storage bowls, and then top each portion with an extra little sprinkle of cheese and a few grindings of black pepper.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes if you time everything perfectly? Maybe 45.

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