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Trio of nuts makes pesto alternative for any pasta

When planning a meatless meal, I often gravitate to pasta. A satisfying dish only needs plenty of good quality olive oil, a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and a shower of grated parmesan.

It’s for good reason that pine nuts are a traditional component of pesto, where they lend their deep savor and smooth texture to the quintessential basil mixture. I’ve blogged on a number of occasions, however, about pestos made with other nuts, paired with other herbs for pestos inspired by other cuisines. Almond and parsley, pistachio and mint, even cashew and cilantro.

I can’t recall, however, combining several nuts for a spin on this concept. So this trio of pine nuts, almonds and pistachios is a must-try, particularly during winter when basil won’t grow in outdoor herb pots but parsley and mint withstand the season in a sheltered spot.

Turns out, this dish isn’t even Italian in origin, but French and most often served in Provence. In lieu of lemon, orange zest cuts the richness of Nutty Pasta. The citrus doesn’t sound so unconventional when one considers that pistachios and oranges are a very common pairing around the Mediterranean.

Nutty Pasta

2 ounces almonds

2 ounces pine nuts

2 ounces shelled pistachios

Leaves from 1 bunch parsley

Leaves from 1 bunch mint

12 ounces spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

Parmesan cheese, for grating

Zest from 1/2 orange (optional)

Put the almonds, pine nuts, pistachio, parsley and mint into a food processor and chop until fine but not completely pulverized — it should still have a bit of texture.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling water until al dente, according to package directions. Drain. Toss with nut paste, the olive oil, cheese and zest, if using. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from "French Taste" by Laura Calder.

Tribune News Service photo