This is based on a Turkish recipe popular in winter: pasta, tossed with walnuts, cheese and olive oil. My take is finished with cream to make it a little more sauce-like. It’s warming, delicate and delicious. It would make a great starter at a dinner party – it scales well so you can cook it for four – as well as a fab quick Friday-night dinner. The nuts have plenty of flavour and texture so this sauce works well with wholegrain pasta, a good-for-you food I usually don’t like. Serve with a side of tomato salad, or spoon salad, if you really, really like nuts.
Serves: 2 people. Prep: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 10-15 minutes.
Stores: For a day or two in the fridge, but it’s at its absolute best the moment it comes out of the pan.
- Pasta for two people (about 150 grams of dry spaghetti, for example)
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 if you’re finishing with cream
- 2 tablespoons of white wine (optional)
- A small amount of fresh thyme, about a third of a sprig (optional)
- 2 generous handfuls of walnuts (about 75 grams)
- 3 tablespoons single cream
- ~30 grams of hard Italian style cheese (or the closest thing to vegetarian Parmesan you can find)
- Pasta pot
- Sauce pan
- Chopping board
- Tablespoon measure or tablespoon
- Wooden spoon
- Cheese grater
- Put the kettle on and fill the pasta pot. You might need two kettlefuls of water.
- Add the pasta to the water and cook as per instructions on the package.
If you’re using pasta that takes 12 or so minutes to cook, you can just about do the sauce while the pasta cooks, put the pasta in when you start cooking the onion to give yourself the time you need. If you’ve got fresh pasta, cook it at the very end.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic.
- Heat the oil in the sauce pan, when hot, add the onion and garlic.
- Cook until soft, about five minutes, but take care not to brown it.
- Add the wine and thyme, if using, and let reduce.
- Chop the nuts roughly (each piece in at least four pieces – you want crunch but not so much that you cut your palate).
- Add the nuts and, if using, the cream.
- Grate the cheese and put in a bowl.
- When the pasta is done, drain, leaving a couple of table spoons of cooking liquor in the pan.
- Toss with the sauce and serve with the cheese on the side. Make sure everyone gets nuts – they tend to gather at the bottom of the pan.
- Cream: Add more cream, or créme fraiche, for a more luxurious dish. A thinner, wetter sauce looks great at a dinner party.
- Peas: Add a handful or two of frozen green peas to the pasta a couple of minutes before it’s done. They cook as the past finishes. Then drain and cook as per the recipe above.
- Hazelnuts: Swap out the walnuts for hazelnuts. They too have a nice, strong flavour and great crunch.