Pasta with Raisins, Pine Nuts & Cinnamon

February 17th, 2011 / Comments 5

I buy both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon in small quantities. Cinnamon sticks can be ground in a small electric coffee mill reserved for spice grinding or pulverized in a mortar and pestle. It is a familiar flavor in breakfast breads, cookies and all things apple – sauce, pies and crumbles and it adds flavor to savory dishes as well. It is used in Middle Eastern recipes for chicken or lamb and is a component of Indian garam masala. Tomato slices sprinkled with cinnamon sugar are an Amish relish and in Sicily it is used to flavor octopus, gelato and pasta.

V poppy bowl Pasta with Raisins, Pine Nuts & Cinnamon

When my friend Veronica, the potter who made the pasta bowls we eat from, served me pasta with pine nuts and raisins she told me that a pinch of cinnamon was the crucial ingredient. It was the first meal we had in the pasta bowls she gave to us.  Here’s how I made it:

Pasta with Raisins and Nuts

While the water was heating in a large pasta pot, I began the sauce by toasting three-quarters of a cup of pine nuts in a dry frying pan until they were fragrant, about three minutes. When I’m not feeling extravagant I substitute walnuts for the pine nuts. I put three-quarters of a cup of raisins in a bowl and covered them with boiling water. I cooked five medium, finely minced, garlic cloves over very low heat in half a cup of olive oil in a large frying pan until the garlic had softened and flavored the oil without browning. Then I drained the water from the raisins, added them and the toasted nuts to the garlic oil. I cooked one pound of pasta until it was al dente and reserved a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water before I drained it. I combined the pasta and raisin nut mixture, added a small pinch of cinnamon, about an eight of a teaspoon, salt and pepper and a splash of pasta water, about a tablespoonful, to make enough sauce to coat the pasta. I used a wooden spoon to mix the pasta with the sauce. After cooking for two minutes on medium heat, the pasta was ready. I served it in Veronica’s yellow pasta bowls and passed a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The cinnamon is not an obvious flavor but it bridges the sweet flavor of the raisins and the savory flavor of the garlic.

I read that a paste of hot olive oil, honey and cinnamon applied to one’s head for fifteen minutes each day helps those suffering from baldness. I can’t promise that it will bring new hair but the scent of cinnamon may well bring friends who are longing for a slice of apple pie.

You can see more of Veronica’s pottery here.

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