Recipes | Penne in walnut sauce


Penne in walnut sauce

If you've run through your pasta sauce repertoire several times during lockdown try this delicious penne in salsa di noci (penne in walnut sauce) from Christine Smallwood's lovely new book Italy: The World Vegetarian. It's really simple - as she says basically a walnut pesto.

Christine writes: Walnuts are found throughout Italy, as are beautiful bowls and other wooden objects made from their tree’s wood. The nuts are found in various dishes and the first pasta I came across with a walnut sauce was a ricotta-filled ravioli, but linguine, spaghetti and penne (as here) are all good choices, too.

A walnut sauce is often made with cream, but I like it as more of a pesto, albeit with walnuts and parsley instead of pine nuts and basil. Some people blanch their walnuts to remove the papery skin, but it is not essential.

Penne in Salsa di Noci



300g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped

30g vegetarian Italian hard cheese, finely grated

20g parsley

½ garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to season

a pinch of black pepper, plus extra to season

about 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

350g penne pasta

Reserve a small quantity of the chopped walnuts for garnish. Put the remainder, along with the cheese, parsley, garlic and salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blitz to combine. Add enough oil to make quite a loose sauce. Transfer the sauce to a pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta and set aside.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the penne. Cook according to the packet instructions until just al dente. Reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water, then drain. (I found I needed quite a bit to loosen the sauce so keep back at least half a cup (about 125ml)

Loosen the walnut sauce with a little of the reserved pasta cooking water and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and stir to coat. Serve immediately sprinkled with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a few sprinkled chopped walnuts.

What to drink: You don't want anything too obviously fruity for this dish - a dry Italian white like a Soave, Orvieto or Vernaccia di San Gimignano would be ideal and, having tasted it, it would also go with an orange or skin contact wine) I also like the idea of drinking a savagnin or Jura chardonnay with it but haven't tried it

Extracted from Italy: The World Vegetarian by Christine Smallwood (Bloomsbury Absolute, £20). Photography by Mike Cooper.

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