Spaghetti with Parmesan, Brown Butter and Pine Nuts

On our honeymoon five years ago, we went to Italy and ate our weight in cacio e pepe, which is basically spaghetti with a boatload of cheese and pepper. Simple and delicious! On that note, I’m psyched about this week’s vegetarian dinner, which adds just a few ingredients for serious flavor. Jennifer from Savory Simple shares her recipe…

Spaghetti with Parmesan, Brown Butter and Pine Nuts
by Jennifer Farley of Savory Simple

People often talk about getting healthy in the new year. Not me. For me, January is all about simplicity and getting back to basics. I live in D.C., where it gets quite dark and chilly in the winter. I crave warmth. Comfort. This recipe for spaghetti with parmesan, pine nuts and brown butter sauce is everything I love in a January meal.

Quality ingredients make all of the difference in this recipe. Big cloves of garlic, fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese, a freshly squeezed lemon and homemade chicken stock will elevate this dish from average to exquisite. It’s an incredibly satisfying dinner that brings a bit of warmth to these cold winter months.

Recipe: Spaghetti with Parmesan, Brown Butter and Pine Nuts
Makes 4 servings

What you’ll need:

8 oz spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup + 2 tbsp. pine nuts
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set aside. In a sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium low heat. Add the pine nuts and toss to coat. Stir periodically until the pine nuts are golden brown and fragrant. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter. Turn the heat up to medium and whisk constantly until the butter begins to brown. You can push the color a bit (more brown color equals more flavor) but be careful that it doesn’t burn. When the butter is nice and brown, add the chicken stock and whisk together briefly. Allow the sauce to reduce down by about half or until it reaches a desirable sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Season with a bit of salt to taste.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, pine nuts, garlic, brown butter sauce and lemon juice. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water as needed to help the ingredients combine.

Garnish with more grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Thank you so much, Jennifer!

P.S. More recipes, including three-ingredient pastas and how to make a perfect cheese plate.

(Photos and recipe by Jennifer Farley. Thanks to Caroline Donofrio for her help with this series)

  1. Usually the most simple things in life are some of the best. My daughter eats this by the pound. The simplicity of pine nuts brings out so much flavor.

    Yaseen Archuletta

  2. Caitlin Elliott says...

    I tried it with the exact recipe as laid out above. It was addictive. One comment – you REALLY have to watch and stir the pine nuts – mine went from zero to brown/black in approx. 1 minute. Thankfully I had (accidentally) bought double the amount of pine nuts required, so I started over again after dumping the first lot in the garbage!

  3. This right here is everything I adore about life. I could easily eat this every day and never tire of it. The photos are exquisite too!

  4. I grew up eating this quick meal minus the pine nuts. My mom is Greek.

  5. Wow this looks amazing yet simple. I guess how it turns out really depends on the quality of pasta and Parmesan.

  6. This looks and sounds delicious, can’t wait to try it!

  7. This is not what I needed to see while having my afternoon snack cravings (or is it?)!! Looks absolutely delicious!


  8. This looks SO good! I want to eat this now!
    side note-I know it looks cool and antique-y, but that fork looks kinda dirty.

  9. Me says...

    Looks delicious, and sinful!

  10. jm says...

    This looks so good!

  11. Holy deliciousness! I need this in my life…guess what is getting made for dinner this weekend!

  12. Looks amazing. I love pine nuts and would eat them with everything if only they weren’t so expensive.

  13. Good gracious! That looks amazing. Page bookmarked. Thanks.

  14. That looks SO good and simple! Sometimes the basic dishes are the best. Thanks for sharing the recipe! :)

    Kim .. Showering at the gym?!

  15. I’ll have to keep an eye out for pine nuts next time I am grocery shopping…I made cacio e pepe with spaghetti squash last night.

  16. this looks delicious, and i’d definitely make it … if my household wasn’t almost gluten free. in other news, how was your first yoga class, Joanna? xo

  17. Was sad looking at this because I’m doing dairy free but realized I could really simply de-dairy this! Gonna give it a try!


  18. This looks amazing!

    Have a wonderful day!
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