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Pasta with Pecorino Herb Walnut Sauce

December 14, 2011

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 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2011 10:39 am

    What a lovely recipe – I can see that it should be eaten sparingly! I often add walnuts to my tomato sauce for pasta – it tastes wonderful then, but with a cream sauce would even be better!

    • December 15, 2011 2:08 pm

      I’ve heard of adding walnut to a tomato sauce, but never have! Sounds very different and interesting!

  2. December 14, 2011 10:49 am

    I don’t know that I would be able to control myself around this dish! I love walnuts with nutty cheeses like pecorino. The shape of that pasta look perfect for picking up the sauce.

  3. December 14, 2011 10:57 am

    Your post has reminded me of how good walnut sauce is, and the fact I haven’t made one for years! Thank you :)

  4. December 14, 2011 11:10 am

    Don’t think I’ve ever had a walnut sauce.
    Something that’s sure to change before the winter is over! This sounds nice and easy – and yummy!

  5. December 14, 2011 11:15 am

    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).

  6. December 14, 2011 11:31 am

    I love the header and this pasta is just as festive.

  7. December 14, 2011 12:55 pm

    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!

  8. December 14, 2011 2:22 pm

    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!

    • December 15, 2011 2:12 pm

      I’d love to hear if you make this! (I’m beginning to feel the pressure of approval from your aunt!!)

  9. December 14, 2011 3:32 pm

    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 :)

    • December 15, 2011 2:13 pm

      I think you will definitely like the taste. It’s really not that extreme to overpower any dish you use it on. I’d say it just has a sharper a subtle way…:)

  10. December 14, 2011 4:25 pm

    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!

  11. December 14, 2011 4:45 pm

    This pasta sounds incredible, Linda! I love the walnuts and Pecorino cheese. Mmm mmm mmm! Oh, and those noodles are just fantastic. :)

  12. December 14, 2011 5:47 pm

    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! :)

    • December 15, 2011 2:14 pm

      Oh, I agree, making from scratch is just a bit too much. Maybe one of these days when I no longer work and have plenty of time on my hands will I give home made pasta a try!!

  13. December 14, 2011 7:24 pm

    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.) ;)

    • December 15, 2011 2:16 pm

      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!!

  14. December 14, 2011 7:24 pm

    And thank you for the mention! :)

  15. December 14, 2011 8:03 pm

    That is seriously decadent. yum yum yumn.. c

  16. December 14, 2011 10:17 pm

    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.

    • December 15, 2011 2:16 pm

      I guess you only shop the outside isles!! Me too, but there are some things I do need to go down the isles for!!

  17. December 14, 2011 11:47 pm

    Great combination of flavors…I think I could eat an entire bowl. :-)

  18. December 15, 2011 4:43 am

    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 :)

  19. December 15, 2011 6:17 am

    Wow, that looks absolutely beautiful and delicious!

  20. December 15, 2011 6:48 am

    Ooh how delicious!
    :-) Mandy

  21. December 15, 2011 8:53 am

    I have been giddy to look at this recipe ever since I saw the update yesterday! This pasta looks delicious. And, great snow animation at the top!

  22. December 15, 2011 5:54 pm

    This pasta looks amazing…I think I will be making it Christmas week. So delicious looking!

  23. December 15, 2011 10:19 pm

    Simple and beautiful! Well done! I’ll be making this for sure.

  24. December 16, 2011 12:30 am

    Delish!! This is a wonderful looking pasta dish, rich and delicious!

  25. December 16, 2011 2:08 am

    This pasta look absolutely delish! And I never would have paired walnuts with this dish… which to make makes it more appealing. Wonderful recipe

  26. December 16, 2011 8:07 am

    I love the herb sauce. So flavorful and light! Simply INCREDIBLE

  27. December 16, 2011 11:54 am

    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:-)

  28. December 16, 2011 9:01 pm

    Have I died and gone to heaven? This sounds so perfect, rich, heavenly…need I say more? I am allergic to walnuts, what it your best recommendation to substitute for the walnuts? Pistachio? Hazelnut?

    • December 19, 2011 10:09 am

      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!!

  29. December 17, 2011 1:32 pm

    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.

  30. December 19, 2011 10:11 am

    I do see you know your pastas!! It’s one of my favorites!

  31. December 20, 2011 3:26 pm

    This sounds – and looks – cool!

  32. December 27, 2011 11:14 am

    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.

  33. nick barknot permalink
    February 9, 2012 12:45 am

    Looks and reads delicious but when is the garlic used?

    • February 10, 2012 12:58 pm

      Thanks Nick for noticing!! The garlic is in the sauce; I’ve corrected the recipe!


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