Pasta with Walnut Sauce is a surprisingly delicious meatless dish made with toasted walnuts, garlic, and lots of fresh creamy ricotta.
Every once in a while a dish will stand out as being really unusual, and really memorable. This is one of them. I’m guessing you’ve never had a pasta quite like this. The nuts take center stage, backed up by a creamy sauce of ricotta, with a twinge of garlic, a hit of Parmesan, and a fresh burst of parsley.
It’s not a deal breaker, but freshly made ricotta really makes this pasta special. And in the time it takes you to bring a half gallon of milk to a simmer, you can have a fresh batch of homemade cheese. See directions at the bottom of this post.
This is one of those recipes where there are only a few ingredients, so there’s no reason they can’t all be top quality. Don’t use the crumpled bag of chopped walnuts leftover from your last brownie binge. And invest in a chunk of real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It’ll make all the difference.
- 1 1/2 cups walnut halves
- 1 clove garlic
- handful of fresh parsley leaves
- 2 cups miniature penne (measure before cooking)
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta (freshly made if possible)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- milk, cream, or reserved pasta cooking water for thinning the sauce
- salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Set oven to 350F
- Spread the nuts on a baking sheet roast for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and starting to brown. Set them aside to cool on the pan.
- Put the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse until both are finely minced. Add in the nuts and pulse until the nuts are well ground. There should be some variation in the size of the pieces, but you want the nuts to be well chopped. There should be a range of small walnut pieces all the way down to walnut dust (see above.) Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the nut mixture for a garnish.
- Cook the pasta to just al dente. Drain and return to the pan. (Reserve a little of the cooking water)
- Add in the ricotta and the Parmesan and toss well.
- Add in the walnut mixture and thin the sauce with a little milk, cream, or reserved pasta water, if necessary. Bring everything up to temperature gently, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnished with the reserved nuts.