Christmas,  Dinner,  Pasta

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.

I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.


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