Weeknight Cooking

Garlicky Whole-Wheat Pasta With Fried Hazelnuts

February 23, 2019
10 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 2 as a main
Author Notes

This recipe celebrates whole-wheat pasta, leaning into its nuttiness without forcing it to be something it's not. You start off frying hazelnuts in olive oil (no pre-roasting necessary) until they’re deeply golden and irresistibly fragrant. When you remove the nuts from the skillet, you’re left with oil that’s infused with their richness—and ready to become pasta sauce. With chile flakes, garlic, and lemon—along with pecorino for more nutty saltiness and a pat of butter for gloss—it’s the ideal counterpart to the whole-wheat noodles: The crunchy hazelnuts provide a foundation of flavor that keeps the pasta from feeling out of place; the spicy, lemony sauce brightens it up to prevent the dish from feeling like it’s been buried underground. —Sarah Jampel

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Whole-Wheat Pasta Skeptics, Meet the Recipe That’ll Change Your Mind. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped hazelnuts (50 to 55 grams)
  • 1 sprig thyme, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed finely grated Pecorino Romano (30 grams), plus more for serving
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until quite al dente, about 2 minutes short of the recommended time on the package.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the sprig of thyme and let it sizzle. When it's changed color and shriveled, 1 to 2 minutes, add the hazelnuts. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer nuts and thyme to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the red pepper flakes and black pepper and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat down to low.
  4. By now, the pasta should be finished. Scoop out 1 cup of pasta water to keep for the sauce, then drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Mix in a couple tablespoons of pasta water, then sprinkle over a few tablespoons of pecorino and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon to melt in the cheese. Continue adding pasta water and cheese and mixing with verve until smooth and combined.
  5. Add the butter and mix until you have a glossy sauce, then mix in the zest and juice from half a lemon. Mix in the reserved hazelnuts and thyme. Taste for salt and lemon.
  6. Top with additional fresh thyme, black pepper, and grated pecorino.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Karishma Patel
    Karishma Patel
  • kasia S.
    kasia S.
  • Ulu Kitchen
    Ulu Kitchen

8 Reviews

Ulu K. August 12, 2023
Made the recipe as written using fresh picked Thyme and fresh lemon for zest and juicing. I was wondering how to use the Hazelnuts that came in a Foodbasket program bag. Food52 recipe arrived! Amazing flavor! I will make this for folks who choose to eat vegetarian, but also for the rest of us omnivores.
Lori September 13, 2021
We eat a lot of pasta. After eating this, my husband said, “I think this might be the best one ever.” I did make a couple of changes—added 3x the garlic and thyme and doubled the red pepper, Served it with a salad made up of arugula, red onion, apples, chopped pecans, cranberries and a lemon maple syrup dressing. It complimented the pasta wonderfully. I will probably be making this again very soon.
FrugalCat February 12, 2020
Shell pasta will let you trap a lone hazelnut inside.
Karishma P. January 8, 2020
Hello! I'm thinking of trying this recipe but some family members like their pasta with lots of sauce. Does anyone have a complimentary sauce that pairs well with this pasta?!
kasia S. November 4, 2020
Lori September 13, 2021
If you’re going to dump another sauce on it, don’t bother making it. There is already a sauce made of thyme flavored olive oil, red pepper, garlic, hazelnuts, and cheese. If you want it to be more saucy, add more of the pasta water with some more cheese and garlic.
dona June 23, 2019
The recipe instructions say to add red pepper flakes, but there are none listed in the ingredients!
kasia S. November 4, 2020
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes