I LOVE simple pasta dishes. They’re quick, easy, and just plain satisfying (see tuna & red pepper pasta). After all, why make things more complicated than they have to be?
I called this “jewel” pasta because the little bits of dried fruit turn into glistening, semi-transparent jewel-like nuggets after being sauteed in butter – so totally pretty. Fruit and pasta might sound weird, but they provide just a hint of sweetness to this otherwise savory dish. The recipe starts with a classic pasta backbone of garlic, butter, and parmesan and then adds nuts for texture and the fruit for sweetness. I added parsley because I love the color pop, but that’s optional.
A basic fruit and nut trail mix is what you want to use here. Nothing with chocolate or those little sesame cracker type things, just straight dried fruit and nuts. Sesame seeds or pepitas are okay to have in the mix too. Basic trail mixes like this are usually pretty inexpensive. I picked one up at Target but upon inspecting the bag, I noticed that it was pretty much ALL fruit. So, I also bought a small tin of mixed nuts and just combined the two (and added the prices together for the cost break down). Bulk bins are a also a great place to find inexpensive trail mix.
P.S. Stirring small pieces of food into pasta is extremely difficult and I don’t know why I keep trying to do it. If you’ve never tried, the pasta tends to clump into a ball with all of your other ingredients falling behind. To eliminate this problem, you can make this dish with a different pasta shape, like maybe orzo.
- 14 oz. pasta $2.00
- 1 cup fruit & nut trail mix $1.53
- 3 Tbsp butter $0.30
- 1 clove garlic $0.08
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan $0.31
- handful parsley (optional) $0.21
- to taste salt & pepper $0.05
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Once it reaches a boil, add the pasta and continue to boil for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Reserve about a ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta in a colander.
- While the pasta is cooking, roughly chop the dried fruit, nuts, and parsley leaves. Mince the garlic.
- After pouring the cooked pasta into the colander, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the butter. Allow the butter to melt and begin to foam. Once it begins foaming, add the garlic, fruit, and nuts. Continue to cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until you smell a toasty aroma (if it begins to smell burned, remove it from the heat immediately).
- Once the fruit, nuts, and garlic begin to smell slightly toasty, turn off the heat, and add the drained pasta back to the pot. Stir the pasta together with the fruit, nuts, and garlic, adding a little of the reserved cooking water if it becomes too dry. Stir in the chopped parsley and parmesan. Season pasta to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve warm.
Step By Step Photos
This is all you need to make your pasta – oops, except a clove of garlic, too. I forgot to put the garlic in the photo. You don’t need two separate fruit and nut mixes, I just bought more nuts because this particular bag of trail mix seemed to be missing them. I splurged and bought Barilla Plus pasta because it’s my favorite. I also realized that I was down to my last tablespoon of butter, so I had to use part olive oil… using all butter will definitely give you more flavor.
First things first, get your pasta cooking. Boil a pot of water, add the pasta, and continue boiling until tender.
While the pasta is cooking, take care of the chopping. You want the fruit and nuts to be in small pieces instead of whole chunks, so roughly chop them…
Until they are in small pieces like this.
When the pasta is tender, save about a half cup of the pasta water to help moisten the pasta later (if needed). Drain the pasta in a colander, return the pot to the stove, and turn the heat down to medium-low.
Melt the butter in the pot and allow it to become foamy.
Then add the chopped fruit, nuts, and minced garlic. Stir and cook the mixture in the butter until you begin to smell a “toasty” aroma and the butter looks light brown. Then, turn off the heat. This can happen quickly, so stay on it.
Add the drained pasta and chopped parsley. Stir it all together (or at least try to – this is where something like orzo would be a LOT easier). If the pasta gets dry and starts to stick together too much to stir, sprinkle it with a little bit of that reserved pasta water.
Next add the parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of salt, and a few cranks of the pepper mill. Stir it together, taste, and adjust the salt and pepper as desired.
Serve warm as a light main dish or as a hearty side!