Ok guys, let’s get serious now. Did anyone go full out last night for Valentine’s Day? We all know that when a holiday falls on a Thursday (except for Thanksgiving of course) that we’re all just waiting for Friday to really let loose. So even if you ate your weight in chocolate covered confections yesterday, think of tonight as the main event. And this hazelnut brown butter pappardelle should definitely be the MAIN EVENT.
Date night pasta here we come
Now, even if it wasn’t date night, or if I was just planning to date myself for the evening, this would still be on the menu. But if you do have someone you’re trying to impress, I promise this will not disappoint. It’s comforting, rich, sophisticated, and alarmingly easy. The “easy factor” is honestly the most important part of any date night dish, IMO. Because no one should be stressed, sweaty, and starving when all they want is some love and comfort.
But how can easy still be impressive? Here’s a secret (well a few). Brown butter and hazelnuts seem very chic – but honestly they’re just butter that you brown and hazelnuts that you buy. Also “pappardelle” sounds waaaaaay fancier than “pasta”, and long, wide noodles are not only great with butter based sauces, but they feel luxurious and romantic – that scene in Lady and Tramp is iconic for a reason, right?
So then tell me how to make hazelnut brown butter pappardelle, please and thank you
Because this dish is as simple as anything, the preparation really starts before you ever get into the kitchen. First things first, go to the grocery store. It can be the fancy, artisanal kind but honestly I found all of the necessaries at my local Trader Joe’s. While you’re there pick up some flowers, some cheese, a loaf of crusty bread, and something chocolate – a bottle of wine would also be wise to grab. Once you’ve got the before dinner and after dinner items secured then mosey down the aisles and procure the stuff for the actual dish.
Remember, because there aren’t that many ingredients, quality counts. So real parmigiano reggiano (if you can hack it) is best, but at least get the kind that you grate yourself. If you can’t find pappardelle (either fresh or dried) feel free to pick up some fettuccine or even thick spaghetti. I’ve also done this with rigatoni, which is delicious, but doesn’t have the same “ooh la la” factor.
Parsley – fresh. Lemon – also fresh. Butter – get whatever you usually buy, just make sure it’s unsalted. That brings us to the nuts, which is where things could get a little dicey. So if you find yourself some hazelnuts and they are a rich, chocolatey brown color, those are raw and unpeeled. There a few ways you can deal with them. One is to do nothing – just use them in the recipe as directed and move on with your life. The only issue with there is that the hazelnut skins can be a touch bitter. Second, you can try to find peeled or “blanched” hazelnuts, which are available at a lot of grocery stores and online, but are sometimes a little tricky to find in the moment. And third is, you guessed it – to peel them yourself.
How to peel hazelnuts
If you chose door number three, congratulations! You are old school. In the interest of complete honesty – this isn’t hard per se, but it does take some time and effort, and as I discussed earlier, date night meals should not be about working the hardest. So if you want to keep it nice and easy and can’t find blanched or at least partially peeled hazelnuts, then sub in another nut – walnuts, pecans, or almonds would all be excellent choices.
If you’re still on the peeling bandwagon though here is a method that I found recently that will make this process much easier than the arduous slog that peeling hazelnuts would normally be. It comes by way of Jamie at My Baking Addiction, and if we could all just take a small moment to collectively thank her for her contribution to our nut consuming endeavors I think that’d be great.
Ok, moment over. Here’s the deets.
- Boil water in a pot
- Add a cup of hazelnuts and 3 tablespoons of baking soda
- Let boil for 3 minutes. The water will turn an alarming shade of black – be cool.
- Strain the nuts and transfer them to a bowl of ice water.
- The skins should slip off with a gentle pinch between your thumb and pointer finger (kind of like chickpeas).
- Drain, dry, and use in whatever!
Once that’s done the whole thing comes together in about as long as it takes to chop the nuts, grate the cheese, and boil the pasta.
Date night dinner – handled
Pop a bottle, light some candles, brown some butter, and be pleasantly surprised at how crafting a romantic night in is kind of a snap, even if it’s not technically Valentine’s Day.
And if you’re looking for some other date night inspiration, catch some of these:
- Creamy Lemon Spaghetti
- My Favorite Spaghetti Bolognese
- Brown Butter Spiced Chickpeas with Creamy Polenta
- Baked Chocolate Donuts with Tart Raspberry Glaze
- Caramelized White Chocolate and Almond Blondies
Hazelnut Brown Butter Pappardelle
A few beautiful ingredients turn into a luxurious, indulgent, and incredibly easy date night dish in just about 20 minutes. Hazelnut brown butter pappardelle is a recipe that’s sure to impress without breaking a sweat.
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 20 Minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Italian
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 C peeled hazelnuts, roughly chopped
8 ounces of pappardelle (or long pasta of your choice)
1 T lemon zest
1/2 C chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces finely grated parmesan cheese
Juice of one lemon
Brown the butter in a large skillet. To do this, melt it over medium heat until it foams up substantially. Once the foaming dies down, swirl it frequently – keeping a close eye on it. You will notice the milk solids drop to the middle or bottom of the pan and begin to brown. Once it’s a light chestnut color, turn the heat to low and add your chopped hazelnuts. Stir and toast over low heat for five minutes, or until the nuts start to take on a little color
Drop your pasta in a pot of boiling, well salted water and cook one minute shy of the package directions. Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and add it to the brown butter and nuts, along with half of the reserved cooking liquid. Toss thoroughly to coat the noodles, adding a little more liquid if it looks too dry. It should be just a little wetter that you want at this point.
Turn off the heat. Add the lemon zest, parsley, black pepper, and grated cheese. Toss to combine thoroughly. Then squeeze over the lemon juice, toss again, and serve immediately with an extra sprinkling of cheese.
Grate your cheese very finely, and do make sure to grate it yourself. If you use the pre-grated kind it’s likely to clump when it meets the heat, whereas a finely grated cheese will just melt into a light, buttery sauce.
If you can’t find peeled hazelnuts, and you don’t want to do the work yourself, feel free to substitute walnuts, pecans, or almonds (marcona almonds would be amazing in this).
Keywords: date night, weeknight dinner, indulgent pasta, brown butter pasta, vegetarian comfort food