pasta with a walnut and mushroom sauce

May 28th, 2008 · 40 Comments

and if i wanted to sleep with you, it’d be ’torcetti con salsa di noci e funghi’.  but being that we’re all platonic here, i thought i’d keep it to the english since i hit you so hard in my last post with my γαλακτομπο?ρεκο

i’m forever browsing blogs, looking for inspiration – and this dish caught my eye while catching up with the folks from ‘we are never full’.  it’s a site full of exuberance and passion – they take their food very seriously and it shows.  the pasta sauce, from genoa, is a recreation of yet another wonderful dish from their extensive travels through italy.

again, i’m a big fan of simplicity and so that’s where my sensibilities tend to lead me.  this was the primi course for a small dinner party, followed by a secundo of grass-fed grilled to perfection ribeye, along with a basic green salad of romaine and arugula with grape tomatoes.  so yes, perhaps simple, but a wonderful dinner.

the pasta dish suffers somewhat from the innocousness of its beige colorway.  but apart from that, it’s quite good.  having said this, let me share my initial resistance, which was that the walnut texture in the sauce, was for me a minor distraction. but it seems i was alone in this assessment.  and everyone else was raving.

but you see, the thing is (and here’s a dirty little secret), in my mind, my opinion – when it comes to food – outweighs any number of other opinions at the table.  so i’m not sure if this pasta is a do-over for me.  my gauge is this: if i were in a very good restaurant, would i flip over this?  and then i know…

torcetti con salsa di noce e funghi
adapted from
‘we are never full’
 
i spotted these french horn mushrooms and felt the need to own them.  they were pricey, but well, i’m worth it.  had there been porcini’s, i would’ve pounced.  morel’s – the obvious in-season choice would’ve been lovely too but my local ‘whole foods’ was scraping the bottom of the barrel…

1 1/2 cups walnuts, boiled for 25 minutes
1 cup of parmigiano reggiano
3/4 cup half and half cream
2 slices white bread soaked in half and half
1 pack of mushrooms (i used both the french horn and cremini’s)
1 lb of pasta
2 Tbl. of fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper

boil your walnuts for 25 minutes to remove some of the bitterness and soften. drain and set aside.

soak two pieces of crustless, white bread in some of the cream so it soaks it all up.

put the salted pasta water on to boil

in a pan, add your sliced mushrooms along with some olive oil or a pat of butter and sauté until firm-soft.

process the walnuts until fine, then add and blend all the rest of the ingredients together : the milk-soaked bread, the cheese and cream, along with a pinch of salt to taste.

add your pasta to the boiling water and cook till al dente.

add the sauce to the pan with the cooked mushrooms, add 1 T of fresh thyme leaves, stir and warm on low for a bit. taste to adjust

when pasta is done, add a bit of the pasta water to the sauce (up to 1/4 cup) and then add your drained pasta to the warming walnut sauce. toss.

plate your pasta and top with some fresh thyme, a bit of freshly ground pepper and some extra parmigiano.

(despite my ramblings, i would definitely not throw this pasta out of bed…)
 
 

Tags: mushrooms · pasta

40 responses so far ↓

  • 1 We Are Never Full // May 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    You’re so right… taking a picture of a ‘beige meal’ is difficult. Thanks for your assessment… so honest which I love. Was the fact that the sauce never gets completely smooth, but still features a bit of the grains of the ground walnuts what turned you off a bit? I could see that for some reason. It’s pretty rich, so there’s only so much you can have. We added a bit of thyme to the top of ours and that added a bit of herbal flavor that I thought it needed – as you did too.

    your pictures are beautiful! But, you’re right, no matter how lovely a photo, you’ve gotta try a meal for yourself to see if you really like it! THANKS FOR GIVING IT A WHIRL!!

  • 2 Robert // May 28, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Fret,

    Not so sure it has been a secret………..

  • 3 Becky And The Beanstock // May 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    But where was I just reading, that part of what surely makes us think “pretty” when we see a photo of food is that we are able to anticipate how it will taste? That we wouldn’t necessarily look at a plate of beige noodles an think it looks gorgeous, except that our taste buds are already in salivate mode? It’s definitely true. Because the beige pasta on a plate looks delish to me, and I can tell you already, I’ll be a fan of the walnuts.

  • 4 Chris // May 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Fret,
    One question… Did you spend more than a few seconds contemplating trying to make the pasta from scratch?

    Looks really good too… How can you go wrong with cream and parm…

  • 5 Diana // May 28, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    The color of a woman’s pasta does not determine the content of her (or its) character.

    That said… The ONLY reason why I thought at first it looked like Beef Stroganoff Hamburger Helper is because that was a staple of my college existence. And those are good memories, so thanks! :)

  • 6 Lesley // May 28, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I sometimes make some poor pairings simply to get some color on my plate. It’s not always necessary. This sounds very tasty to me!

    I can’t help but wonder what it would taste like with hazlenuts instead of walnuts. But wonder I will, because it’ll be a while before I’d have time to whip this up. Or have a decent food processor.

  • 7 Peter // May 28, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Brown often tastes best. I never though of boiling the nuts; I always just toast, chop, and toss them in. The steak sounds pretty good too.

  • 8 Kevin // May 28, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    That looks good! It reminds me of a mushroom pesto that I made a while ago.

  • 9 cookiecrumb // May 28, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    This is something I eat a lot. Really. Well, very similar (but maybe a tinge less gooey).
    You need something green in there, more than those little leaves.
    Fresh spring peas.
    Oh, and where’s your damn shallots?
    Can you imagine? Mm.
    Say I.

  • 10 Brittany // May 28, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    This is the type of dish you may as well staple directly to my ass, because eating it will make it grow within hours. Do I care? NO. This looks sooooo. damn. good.
    *moan*

    that picture of the mushromm had better be on tastespotting. I’m on my way there to check…

  • 11 Lauren // May 28, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    yummy…(yep, still had to do it). so i’m still working on the whole loving mushrooms thing, and this dish looks like it would be a bit much. but still the beige makes it seem like it would be all warm and fuzzy in my tummy. i second the fresh spring peas person, but then i think it would be a winner.

  • 12 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // May 28, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Looks fabulous. I love walnuts, I love cream, I LOVE pasta, all three together sounds amazing. Beige isn’t always bad :) Oh and I’m pretty sure everything sounds sexier in Italian…

  • 13 claudia // May 28, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    laura – yes, everything is sexier in italian except their pop music…

    lauren – i know i raised you better than to use the word ‘yummy’.

    brittany – at your suggestion i submitted the mushroom shot to tastespotting… we shall see…

    cookie – you are so right. again. damn you. where were you when i needed you most?

    kevin – i can see that it would! genoa is the official home to pesto!

    peter – us jews go for brown food. the running joke at holidays was that all the “vegetables” were always brown – think kugel, kishka and kasha.

    lesley – try it with the hazelnuts and get back to me. and go buy a damn food processor for god’s sake…

    chris – not that night. but – i did see batali make pasta dough and then rub it between his hands into little worm shapes. i gotta do it…

    diana – so glad i could dredge up that food memory… i think.

    becky – i agree. looks good on a plate but not so good on tastespotting…

    robert – very very funny. very very true.

    we are never full – hey, it was pretty damn good. i’d just like to tweak it a bit. lower the walnut quantity, and maybe add something green and shallots like cookie suggested. i loved reading all about it on your post and it was great inspiration. thanks guys!

  • 14 Marc @ No Recipes // May 28, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Yumm, looks tasty Claudia! I’m not a big walnut fan, but I love having it in pasta sauce.

  • 15 Kim // May 29, 2008 at 4:53 am

    I like all the components of the meal, and could go for this and a juicy rib-eye in a heart beat! Beige never looked so good………

  • 16 Julie // May 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

    I understand the texture thing; I notice it with pesto — it’s almost a grittiness. But nonetheless, I like sauces with nuts.

    The picture of the french horn mushrooms is great. And as to the beige-iness of the finished dish, there’s a lot of stuff that just isn’t photogenic but tastes great. Deliciousness and photo-worthiness can be mutually exclusive.

  • 17 Sara // May 29, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Just found your blog. My sister reads you regularly and now I sneak in a look when I am at work and the boss isn’t watching. This pasta sounds GREAT! I might try it this weekend even if it wasn’t your favorite. And i LOVE that other blog We Are Never Full too. Thanks for the tip!

  • 18 michelle @ TNS // May 29, 2008 at 9:59 am

    wait, you DON’T want to sleep with me?

    i love sauces with nuts, although i’ve never actually boiled and processed the nuts. interessante.

    you have elevated beigeness. well, as much as beige can be elevated.

  • 19 Peter // May 29, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Nicely done , CEF! I like that it’s creamy and a little chunky from the walnut bits.

    Amy and Jonny got it goin’ on!

  • 20 [eatingclubvancouver] js // May 29, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I laughed out loud when I read this: “but you see, the thing is (and here’s a dirty little secret), in my mind, my opinion – when it comes to food – outweighs any number of other opinions at the table.”

    So true, but of course, we’ll just never say it out loud, eh? Oh wait. You just did.

    It’s my theory that we only have about a dozen per person of dishes to flip over, those that we demand nothing less than perfection. Maybe this dish just isn’t one of those for you. It kind of reminds me of the squash maltagliati (in terms of the look and the texture) we made a while back. While it was good, that dish just didn’t make my heart go racing.

    This one still looks “yummy” though. ;)

  • 21 Donald // May 29, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I saw that sauce at their blog too. I have it bookmarked and will be makin’ it soon!

    It looks soooo good!

  • 22 Sara // May 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Hey! I love this! And thanks for the tip on We Are Never Full. You food bloggers sure look like you’re having FUN!!!

  • 23 Jose // May 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I’m thinking something green in there that’ll lighten it up a bit. Afterall it’s spring, right? But still, I like the idea of all those ingredients together. Love your blog. Thanks. Jose from Tucson, AZ

  • 24 Brittany // May 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    I saw your shroom on TS, despite the fact that it’s not a daring baker opera cake.

  • 25 Heather // May 29, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    …so, now that you’re in my pants…

    Those mushrooms are sold as “king oyster” in Asian stores. I like to grill them.

  • 26 Traci @ Soup of The Day // May 30, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I’ve made this (well, something similar) before. It’s awesome!

    Did you get a new camera? The pics look fantastic – even though they’re beige. ;)

  • 27 Mal Carne // May 30, 2008 at 7:47 am

    I hear you loud and clear on the beige thing. But if one can move past the baby poo coloring, that is a great dish.
    Many great flavor combinations add up to beige coloring, and since the eyes eat first, it makes a bit of a hard sell.

  • 28 NOBLE PIG // May 30, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Food Photography is a killer isn’t it but this looks just wonderful! I love the walnut mushroom combo.

  • 29 diva@theSugarBar // May 30, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    oh i love how it looks. mushrooms are great. sigh, it’s almost dreamy this dish.

  • 30 Stephanie // May 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    this looks fantastic, even if the essence of beige is hard to convey in photographs. I think I may try this with morels…

  • 31 Samantha // May 30, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Beige food is hard to pass off at a restaurant, I guess. But if I made this at my house i think everyone would be very happy to see it!!!

  • 32 Pam // May 30, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Anything with pasta and mushrooms is good – it looks delicious to me!

    Pam

  • 33 democommie // May 31, 2008 at 7:09 am

    Claudia:

    So, okay, I’m running late (like that’s a sooprise) but I gotta say the photo reminds me of the “tuna casserole” my mom used to make–a story for another time.

    I was in Oregon back in 1986 and bought some walnuts at a farm stand. They were small and I asked the owner if they were a different variety. His reply was that the trees were the same type as the “Diamond” folks have, but that they are “free range”, so to speak. The walnuts were very, very sweet (in the non-acidic sense) they were delish and I would not even think of boiling them as they were perfect. Of course, I love chunky pesto, too. The bumpiness is interesting.

    One more note. Is there anyone who reads this blog, and likes wasabi, that is unaware of the US wasabi growers in Oregon. If so, let me know, I’ll post a link.

  • 34 yveala // May 31, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    my opinion…this recipe, those ingredients, can be nothing less than drop dead delicious and i’m making it very soon.

  • 35 Ethel // Jun 1, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Put the beige pasta on a gorgeous platter with some chopped parlsey and little red tomatoes and the beige looks elegant. I love this dish and may even attempt to make it.

  • 36 Amy // Jun 2, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    So, question, how big is “a pack?” I have about a lb of baby bellas that would be good in this dish…

  • 37 melissa // Jun 2, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    This does look good. And Brittany’s right about the mushroom picture; you were good to submit it to Tastespotting.

    I have your walnut and cauliflower whole wheat pasta still waiting to be made as my first pasta with walnuts. I’ll have to add this one too, but I think I’ll do the earlier one first.

  • 38 jim voorhies // Jun 3, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    That’s almost too beige, even for me, which is reaching a lot. It’s hard to beat parmesian and cream added to any pasta.

    Shallots would probably be a good add but there’s not much color there. What about trying a pasta made with spinach or tomato to add color to the dish without really modifying the taste?

  • 39 justjane // Jun 8, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Just one question from an Australian – whats the weight of a ‘pack’ of mushrooms? I get to just select mine out of the box, no one packs them except me! The recipe looks great – no problem with beige here.

  • 40 cook eat FRET - toasted farro, fennel and orange salad // Aug 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    [...] with greens and a ton of percorino, or ricotta and egg yolk, or creme fraiche and truffle oil, or walnuts and mushrooms, or mushrooms sweet garlic and arugula, or even just garlic and olive oil – ok ok, i love pasta and [...]

Leave a Comment

Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wpburn.com wordpress themes