If you’ve ever had dinner at my house, you’ve probably had this dish. It is hands down, without a doubt, my all-time favorite pasta dish. The flavors are big and bold and the sauce is ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook, making it a go-to weeknight meal for me. I keep most of these ingredients on hand at all times so I can throw this dish together anytime the mood strikes…which is often.
I would love to take credit for this recipe but the credit goes to chef Art Smith. My dear friend Kim gave me his cookbook, Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family, for Christmas way back in 2002. I was a recent college grad with a burgeoning interest in all things culinary and I quickly devoured the contents of this beautiful, heartfelt cookbook with this recipe finding a top spot on my regular cooking rotation. Five years later I decided to pursue a culinary career and found myself teaching cooking classes for Common Threads, a non-profit organization founded by….Art Smith. Talk about full circle. I’ve been making this dish for 12 years (HOW?!) and last year when I started dating my now boyfriend, it was the first thing I cooked for him. He grew up with an Italian mother and grandmother so when it got his seal of approval I knew it was blog-worthy.
Most of the recipes you’ll find on this website are original recipes written and developed by me, but occasionally I will post other people’s recipes that are too good not to share. Always with proper credit given to the original recipe developer. In Art’s recipe he calls for spaghettini, a thin spaghetti, which is perfect with this light sauce. However, I use whole-wheat penne because I always have it in my pantry. Use whichever one you prefer. And please, don’t leave out any of the ingredients. I know pine nuts are a little expensive and fresh basil doesn’t last very long, but each ingredient has a special place in this dish.
While I know this recipe by heart and could probably make it in my sleep, I still regularly use Art’s book as a resource for recipes and inspiration. The pages are splattered, tattered and falling out. Which is exactly how a well loved and oft used cookbook should be. If you’d like a copy of the book for your collection, you can click on the (affiliate!) Amazon link below to order a copy.
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives
- 1 pound whole-wheat penne
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, heat an empty large skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and cool.
- Combine the oil, garlic and red pepper in the skillet and heat over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant, but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the olives and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Keep the sauce warm.
- Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain well.
- Return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, basil, pine nuts and Parmesan. Toss well and serve immediately.