"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.
This pasta is one of the nicest things I've eaten in ages. It is brilliantly quick — you can blend the walnuts and oil in the food processor while the pasta cooks. Toss it all together and — mangia! Nutty, garlicky, creamy, satisfying. This pasta, served with a peppery arugula salad, is high on my list of favorite weeknight meals.
But this isn't the only thing worth trying in Domenica's book — not by a long shot. She covers all the essentials: How to make fresh pasta of many different varieties, and what to do with it. There are chapters of loving, labor-intensive dishes, and then others that focus on speed. ("Pasta on the Run") There are showstoppers and there are classics worth keeping. There's even a short chapter on sweet pasta, with an emphasis on fried dough.
It's a glorious book, truly — if pasta is your thing, pick this one up. The recipes are well-done, and the photos are rustic, dramatic, and gorgeous.
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.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup/55 g walnut pieces 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 1/2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 2 tbsp walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1/2 cup/55 g freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving 3/4 cup/170 g whole cow's milk ricotta cheese Freshly ground black pepper 1 lb/455 g 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.
Reprinted with permission from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti. Published by Chronicle Books.