Penne with Olive-Pine Nut Sauce



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.


Penne w/ Olive-Pine Nut Tomato Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
  • 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
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain well.
  5. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, basil, pine nuts and Parmesan. Toss well and serve immediately.



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