Weekly Winner: Herby, Nutty, Creamy Comfort. Almost Perfect Pasta

IMG_0533Pasta in any form makes me happy.   I’ll take plain with butter, extravagantly layered lasagnas or a luscious mac-n-cheese.  If it involves pasta, I’m in!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts, which I found in a recent issue of Milk Street Magazine, has all my favorite things – cheese, nuts, and herbs — if it had bacon in it, it would be the perfect!.  Of course, there’s nothing stopping you (or me next time) from adding some bacon.  Note to self!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts

Serves 4


1/2 cup fresh sage, chopped

6 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp black pepper

12 oz rigatoni or penne rigate

Chopped toasted walnuts, for garnish


  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the olive oil and sage.  Microwave on high just until hot and fragrant, about 1 minute but check after 30 seconds; it should not sizzle.  Cool to room temperature.
  2. In food processor, process the sage-oil mixture and parsley until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add parmesan and lemon zest and process until well incorporated, about 5 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Stir in ricotta, kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add pasta and 2 tablespoons of salt; cook until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  5. Toss the pasta with the ricotta pesto, then stir in the reserved cooking water; the pasta should be creamy.  Serve sprinkled with chopped toasted walnuts and additional parmesan.

Weekly Winner:  Parsley Pesto Pasta Packs a Perfect Punch

Oh alliteration, how I’ve missed you!  But you are back – which makes me very happy and my blog posts that much easier to write. But wait… This entry isn’t about my journalistic quirks, it’s about the food!  So without further ado, I present Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto. (See?  Don’t you think my headline is better?)

The recipe is from Bon Appetit Magazine and caught my attention because it hits on some of my all-time favorite things.  Bucatini has to be my favorite pasta shape.  It’s substantial and chewy.  Walnuts definitely top my list of favorite nuts (along with cashews) and I’m a big fan of pesto made from non-traditional ingredients.  I also tend to lean toward pasta dishes that have relatively few ingredients.  Simplicity is the key for me and in this dish, it just about reigns supreme.

One more fun fact about this dish.  When I decided to make it I realized that, although I’ve wanted shallow pasta bowls forever, I’ve never bought them.  There is no excuse for this but every time I made a new dish, I regretted the fact that I didn’t have the perfect vessel to show it off.  So last Friday I bit the bullet and before I shopped for groceries, I went to my favorite home furnishings store and picked these up.  My pastas finally have a welcoming new home.

Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto

Serves 4


1 cup walnuts

6 pickled Calabrian chiles or 1 Fresno chile

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

1-1/2 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 1-1/2 cups)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound Bucatini


  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.
  • Pulse 3/4 cup walnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving.  Remove stems from chiles, add to food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer walnut mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil and 1 cup parsley.  Season pesto with salt and pepper
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife.  Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.