Linguine with Walnut Pesto
“Glorious” is truly the proper word to describe Domenica Marchetti’s new collection of Italian pasta recipes, The Glorious Pasta of Italy. As Exhibit A, I present to you a fast vegetarian dish with all the luxury you would find in the best restaurant in town. It’s a dish for any time of the year: linguine with a garlicky pesto of walnuts, Parmesan, and ricotta.
- 1/2 cup (55 grams) walnut pieces
- 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, coarsely chopped1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup (55 grams) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 cup (170 grams) whole cow's milk ricotta cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (455 grams) dried linguine
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.
While the water is heating, put the walnuts, garlic, and salt in a mini or regular food processor and process to a coarse paste. With the motor running, dribble in the olive oil and walnut oil and process just until combined. Transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the parsley, Parmigiano, and ricotta. Add a few grinds of pepper and stir the mixture until it is well combined and creamy.
Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup/240 ml of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and spoon in about three-fourths of the pesto (reserve the remainder for another use). Add a little of the cooking water and toss until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.
Transfer the dressed pasta to warmed shallow individual bowls and sprinkle a little Parmigiano and black pepper over each serving. Serve immediately.
Walnut pesto is common along the Ligurian coast, where basil pesto also originated. I like to vary this sauce. Sometimes I add a scoop of fresh ricotta or mascarpone or a splash of cream. Other times I use only the pasta water to thin the mix of ground nuts, garlic, oil, and grated cheese. Either way, it makes a nice change from the classic green pesto, especially in winter when basil is out of season.