Pasta with Pecorino Herb Walnut Sauce

The holiday season deserves special dishes, a bit richer than we’d normally indulge in.  It’s all a matter of balance really.  I’ll treat myself to small portions of dishes I adore while balancing out the meal with healthier, lighter foods.   The same goes for my sweets; real rich ingredients make for decadent desserts!

I served this pasta dish as part of my Seven Fish Feast on Christmas Eve last year.  Its creamy richness complimented the various fish courses I served.  In my Calamari Pomodor post I mentioned this pasta and thanks to Kristy at Eat, Play, Love for her comment inquiring about the recipe, I was thrilled to make it this past week and share it with you all.

I realize now the photo doesn’t show the thick sauce from the toasted walnuts and cream as well as it should.  The sauce is prepared in two stages, first by processing the walnuts, parsley and Pecorino cheese into a crumbly paste with only a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Similar to making pesto, but much less oil so that the mixture is more crumbly than liquidly.  While pasta dishes are always best made and served immediately, this one step can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.  Then when it’s time to prepare the dish, the walnut herb mixture can be lightly toasted, the cream stirred in and additional pasta cooking water is incorporated in to blend into a rich creamy sauce.  The Pecorino cheese melts in the sauce adding to the thick richness.  A good aged Pecorino cheese is best adding a sharper taste than a regular parmesan cheese. 

As for my choice of pasta, I do prefer to purchase the “artisanal” pastas; which are normally in the price range between $4-$6 dollars a pound.  In my opinion the flavor and texture far exceeds others and as with all my dishes; I prefer quality over quantity treating the choice of my pasta as “important” as any other ingredient.  (Of course, for my dear daughter on a tight budget, Barilla is a wonderful choice as well!)

Pasta with Pecorino Herb Walnut Sauce

1/2 lb. dried pasta

1 cup walnuts

Small bunch of fresh parsley

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine the walnuts, parsley, garlic and cheese in a food processor.  Process while slowly adding in the olive oil.  The mixture should be crumbly; not wet as a pesto.  Set aside.  Can be made several hours ahead, refrigerate until needed.

Cook the pasta in a large pot seasoned with kosher salt according to the directions on the package until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce in a large skillet heating 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Add in the the walnut mixure and toast lightly, stirring often, do not allow to burn.  Add in the cream, allow to simmer gently, stirring well.  Stir in a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to blend the sauce to a rich thickness.  Drain the pasta (reserving some more cooking water) and add to the skillet, tossing gently.  Add in additional reserved pasta water if pasta seems dry, tossing to continue to combine the sauce well.  Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately with additional grated Pecorino.   Makes 2 for dinner or 3-4 for appetizer.

44 thoughts on “Pasta with Pecorino Herb Walnut Sauce

  1. Wonderful, simple and delicious, Linda. Maybe we’ll have it for Christmas Eve, which is the simplest of suppers here. All I’d have to go out and buy would be the parsley (which I should be growing myself).

  2. Stunning recipe and I adore pecorino, probably more than parmesan (am I allowed to say that?!). We are being promised some walnuts by a neighbour from his tree – do hope he comes through with them as I would love to try this recipe!

  3. I saw this post’s title in my email inbox and have been dying to get to it but, first, I had to “work” my way to it. Well, let me tell you, this recipe did not disappoint! I promise ya, Lynda, Zia and I will be dining on this pasta when I visit her next. Of course, I’ll have some long before then. Wouldn’t want to give my dear Zia an untested recipe. (Any excuse for another dish of pasta!) Thanks, Linda, for sharing a great recipe!

  4. I don’t think I ever tried pecorino cheese! I keep seeing it in the store and hearing people talk about it but never buy any. I must make a point of having some as soon as it’s the new year – once all this rich Christmas food is out of the way and we can get back to “normal service”. I love pasta dishes – this one looks like something I definitely need to have a try of. Love the shape of the pasta – so cute 🙂

  5. The shape of the pasta is so perfect for the sauce, winner recipe all the way! And I could not agree with you more on the balance of “rich” and “healthy”

    Walnut sauce is not light, but a small portion brings a ton of happiness and should be enjoyed with a big smile!

  6. Mmm, looks amazing. My parents prefer the more expensive pasta’s too but since I’m on a budget we stick to Barilla! LOL. Though I could make my own from scratch but that takes too long! Have a great day Linda! 🙂

  7. You have now planned my Christmas Eve meal this year Linda! I’m making your calamari and this pasta dish (which I think will go very well with my pecorino stuffed mushrooms). I don’t think it gets any better than this – thank you so much for posting it. I’m going to print it right now. And the best part is – I have a feeling that even the kids will enjoy this pasta dish (and if they don’t, I’ll have no problem eating their share). They’re not big on lasagnas or stuffed shells – but walnuts and cheese. And they are going to flip at the calamari! (I’m keeping that a surprise.) 😉

    1. Oh, I’m so happy to hear this!! My son is not really into “different” dishes, but he went back for seconds and thirds on this pasta! I didn’t make any comment to him; teenage boys don’t like alot of fuss from their mothers!!

  8. What a lovely post. I hardly eat pasta anymore, but it’s not because I don’t love it. I just simply forget about it. The artisan stuff is so much better and it’s in a part of the store that I never shop in. I really need to remember so I can give this a try. Yum.

  9. We also get Barilla here – it must be a fantastic brand to have such a wide distribution! And what pleased me a lot was that the price is the same in Italy 🙂

  10. This looks delish! I will definitely be making this for the family on Christmas Eve. I think Santa might leave me an extra gift if I leave him a plate of this fab pasta 🙂 Happy Holidays to you and yours:-)

    1. I never realized someone could be allergy to only one specific nut! I would suggest the hazelnut, but also the pistachio would give the dish a distinct different taste and the color green would be lovely for the holiday! I’m actually going to make it with the pistachio for our holiday to test it out!!

  11. I think your cresti di gallo pasta with the walnut cream sauce is a match made in heaven. I agree about pecorino cheese…I use it much more often than Parmesan.

  12. I came for a visit after Kristy raved about this recipe (and the calamari pomodoro) on Eat, Play, Love and I’m glad I did. I’ve made a walnut pesto like this when I didn’t have pine nuts in my freezer (or couldn’t afford to buy them) with a combination of basil and parsley but never used used just parsley by itself. Or pecorino either. And, I loved the artisanal macaroni you used. I’ll definitely have to make this in the new year. Many thanks for the inspiration.

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