While searching for new recipes to prepare, I found an interesting pasta with creamy crushed walnuts sauce dish that I just had to try. It calls for a favorite short-shaped pasta; I chose to use rigatoni and it worked out perfectly. This creamy pasta dish is ready in no, consists of only a few steps, and makes for an easy and comforting dinner during a busy week.
I would like to thank Heidi from 101 Cookbooks for inspiring me to make this easy-to-prepare recipe. It’s simple to experiment with and is so versatile, e.g., different kinds of nuts or adding greens such as asparagus or broccoli. If you try this and happen to have leftovers and are feeling adventurous, you can also add another protein source in addition to the walnuts. Think about adding beans to make a stew. Add some broth and seasoning and you have the makings for a whole new meal to enjoy.
2 Cups Toasted Walnuts
3-4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled
1 Pound Dried Pasta (Short-shaped)
Juice and Zest of One Lemon
1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Lots of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
To Serve: Fresh Herbs, Homemade Bread Crumbs, and Chile Oil
Toasting the Walnuts
First, decide on how you would like to toast the walnuts. This can be accomplished in the oven or on the stovetop. Find whatever ever way works for you. I chose to use the stove method. Begin by heating a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts to the hot, dry pan, only toasting as many walnuts as fit in the pan in a single layer. While cooking, make sure to watch constantly and stir frequently until the walnuts start to brown and they smell toasted. This process should take about five minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on the pan because the walnuts can burn easily and quickly.
Next, while bringing a large pot of water to a boil, go ahead and crush the walnuts and garlic together in a mortar and pestle. You can also pulse with a hand mixer or food processor, but make sure to leave a bit of texture and chunkiness.
Preparing the Pasta
Cook the pasta per package instructions in salted water in a pot. Once the pasta and the pasta water are nice and starchy, reserve two cups of the pasta water. Whisk a cup of the pasta water into the walnut mixture, adding small amounts until your sauce has the consistency of and is as thick as heavy cream. You will likely need about one and three-fourths cups, perhaps a splash more. Stir in half the cheese, a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, and more freshly ground black pepper to your liking. Taste and then add a bit more salt to the sauce if you think it needs it.
Making the Finishing Touches
Next, transfer the cooked pasta to a large bowl and toss with the walnut sauce. Sprinkle with lemon zest and top with some fresh herbs if you have them, breadcrumbs, and a drizzle of chili oil. I have plenty of fresh thyme growing in my garden and it worked perfectly for this dish.