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Farfalle with Spinach, Raisins, & Pignoli Nuts

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

This dish is so simple that it can come together in as little as 15 minutes! 

Spinach and raisins are frequently paired in both Italian (Venetian, in particular) and Sephardic cooking. These two ingredients have both flavor and textural contrasts that make for a truly knockout combination. Farfalle--bowtie pasta--is lightly dressed in olive oil/butter/lemon juice and zest, and then combined with sautéed chopped or baby spinach, plumped raisins, and toasted pignoli nuts. The technique could not be more basic but the flavors are quite sophisticated. This is the perfect weeknight dish for kids and grownups alike.

Essential equipment: large saucepan or stockpot; colander or strainer; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; large sauté pan; wooden spoon; box grater


¼ cup golden raisins soaked (plus 1 cup water)

1 pound uncooked farfalle (bowtie pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil plus ¼ cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1, 5 oz. clamshell baby spinach 2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup toasted pignoli nuts

juice and zest of half a lemon

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Soak the raisins in 1 cup of boiling water and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta per the instructions on the box. Drain, then rinse with cold water to prevent from sticking together. Set aside. Drain the raisins and discard the soaking water. Set aside the raisins.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the minced garlic. Sauté stirring constantly for approximately two minutes until the garlic is light golden brown. Adjust the heat to medium if the pan is too hot and the garlic risks burning. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside.

“Toasting pignoli the ILOC way means paying close attention. Pignoli can burn in an instant. You must toast them--whether in a pan, oven, or toaster oven--with a close eye. Never step away or go to tackle another task while toasting pine nuts or you'll end up with burnt and black seeds. The most control you have is to cook them in a sauté pan, stirring constantly, as they toast over the heat. Once they turn light golden brown remove them immediately from the heat and from the pan, as they will continue to darken and toast even during those brief seconds. ”

4. Return the pasta pot to the heat and add ¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons butter. Once melted, add lemon zest and juice and then the drained pasta to the pot and toss well to coat. Season with salt to taste.

5. Stir in the sautéed spinach and distribute evenly throughout the pasta. Add in plumped-and-drianed raisins and toasted pignoli nuts. Toss well to coat again. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt, if needed, and some freshly ground black pepper.

6. Distribute evenly between shallow bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4-6 servings.

“Pignoli, or pine nuts, are not actually nuts; they are the edible seeds of pine trees! I always ask guests if they are specifically allergic to pignoli as I am planning a menu to serve them because many people who are allergic to real tree nuts are not actually allergic to pine nuts. And that means I can get that fatty, nutty flavor added to dishes even when nuts might be otherwise verboten. Now you know . . . because It's Lauren, of Course!”

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