Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

This weeknight dinner recipe is simple enough that I managed to pull it together even on a night when I was just plain exhausted.

Orecchiette with Spinach, Hazelnuts and Brown Butter
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 8 oz. orcchiette
  • 3 oz. fresh spinach, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1/2 tsp. dried chile flakes
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Put a large pot with 8-12 cups of water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking pan and place in the oven until browned and fragrant, 10-15 minutes. Give the pan a shake every 3-4 minutes. Transfer pan to a cool rack and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Transfer hazelnuts to a clean dish towel, gather up the ends and rub the nuts against the towel vigorously to remove the skins. When most of the skins have been removed chop on a cutting board or in a food processor.
  4. Cook pasta according to package instructions (mine said 11 minutes and that’s what I went with).
  5. While the pasta cooks heat butter in a large skillet over high heat until it begins to brown. Swirl pan periodically to move the butter about.
  6. Add spinach, hazelnuts and chile flakes to the pan; toss with butter and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. With luck your pasta will be ready when the spinach is well wilted. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with about a 1/4 cup of pasta water.
  8. Stir pasta into spinach and nuts. Heat until the pasta water has mostly evaporated, creating a light sauce.
  9. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Spoon into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes:
I’ve never managed to remove all of the skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing with a towel. Some of the extra skin will flake off as you chop the nuts. Accept the chaos (or pick out the tiny skin pieces).

You can substitute another leafy green, such as Swiss chard or beet greens, for the spinach. You may want to trim off the longer, thicker parts of the stem on Swiss chard and chop it up fine before cooking. I’d avoid heartier greens such as kale or collards in this dish. They take longer to breakdown to an enjoyable texture in my opinion.

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