Saturday, August 21, 2010

Farfalle Pasta with Tomatoes, Brie, Pine Nuts and Basil

I've been cooking this pasta for years, and it's never failed me yet. Just a few ingredients and quite easy to make. 

I had adapted this recipe back in 1993 from Jeff Smith's "Fantasia di Farfalle" in his cookbook The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. For those of you unfamiliar with Jeff Smith, he was a cooking icon back in the 80's and 90's with an enormously popular cooking show on PBS called "The Frugal Gourmet." Jeff Smith was a household name for the home cook apres Julia Child but before the advent of the Food Network. An ordained Methodist minister who seemed like everyman's goofy grandfather, Jeff Smith shot to sky-high fame, and then fell in disgrace to earth faster than Icarus. We'll never know whether he truly committed what he was accused of doing, but that is between Mr. Smith and God now.

(Seattle Times "Jeff Smith: 1939-2004"

In the meantime, and despite the man, I still enjoy his simple and accessible recipes. Here's my version:

12-15 Ripe plum tomatoes, diced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
1/2 lb. Brie
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 tbsp. sugar, to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 lb. farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1. Chop tomatoes into 1" dice. Place in bowl and set aside. 

8/20/10 This time around, I used 12 San Marzano tomatoes and 1 Brandywine tomato, harvested from the garden. 

Chop tomatoes into 1" dice.

2. Mince garlic, julienne basil, and cut brie into large chunks. 

Shredded Parmesan is readily available in the deli section of most supermarkets (using a 3-cheese blend here of Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano). Brie wedge is approximately 8 oz. 

Tip for cutting rinds off of Brie: put the wedge of cheese in the freezer for about 30 minutes beforehand - cheese will be firmer and the rind easier to slice off. 

Diced Brie, minced garlic & julienned basil.

3. Toast pine nuts by placing in small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat for approximately 5-7 minutes (stir with wooden spoon to prevent burning), until very lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

Toasting the pine nuts.

4. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add minced garlic and saute quickly about 1-2 minutes until fragrant (do not brown). Add chopped tomatoes and continue cooking about 5 minutes.

Saute garlic in olive oil.

Add chopped tomatoes.

5. Stir in 1/4 cup of the julienned basil and 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1-2 tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes), or to to taste. Turn heat down to medium and continue cooking another 10-15 minutes to reduce. 

Stir in basil and seasonings.

Seasonings: Kosher salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, coarse ground black pepper.

Cook tomatoes mixture down over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Turn heat down to low and keep on simmer while pasta is cooking.

6. Fill large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook bow tie pasta al dente (until "chewy tender") according to directions, generally around 10 minutes for 1 lb. of dried pasta. To prevent pasta from boiling over, you can add 1-2 tsp of olive oil to the water. 

Cook pasta about 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and set aside. 

7. Turn heat up on tomato mixture to high and bring to boil. Add diced brie and stir until melted. 

Stir in Brie chunks until melted.

8. Reduce heat to medium and stir in pasta. Add about 1/3 cup of shredded parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and remaining 1/4 cup of julienned basil. 

Stir in shredded Parmesan and pine nuts.

9. Turn off heat and serve with additional Parmesan and/or fresh basil.

Top with extra Parm and basil. Dinner is served. 


  1. Aw no comments yet, and my mouth is watering! Why do you cut the rind off the Brie??? We always eat it whole. Also this lazy cook roughly chops the Brie, lays it at the bottom of each of our bowls. Then we just stir the hot food thru it. Looks delectable as you have presented it.

    BTW our humble home grown salad IS nasturtium leaves, some herbs, some flowers. Taste more interesting than the shop bought bags of wilted ...

  2. Hi Elephant Eye- the rind doesn't melt into the sauce? I've made this recipe multiple times to impress my current beau at the time! works like a charm- even for vegetarians! I have to thank my sister for this recipe!

    Camissonia's sister

  3. This is an excellent dish that I have been making for years. Yes I was a fan of the Frugal Gourmet, and have several of his recipe books. Love this one. Yum

  4. Hey, another fan of the Frugal Gourmet! This dish is a staple in our household as it's easy to make and always delish.

  5. I always made this dish for my latest boyfriend- always a hit! LOL! So good I’m making it for our office potluck on Monday theme is comfort food