Walnut Pesto with Fresh Tagliatelle

This is from Lidia’s Italy. On this episode, Lidia made fresh tagliatelle and featured two sauces to dress the pasta with. This one really struck me. I probably won’t be making fresh pasta anytime soon, but luckily I can get it in the refrigerated case at New Seasons from local pasta makers. Lidia stirred all the ingredients together in a big bowl while the pasta was cooking, then smoothed it over the bottom and up the sides a bit. She then lifted the pasta out of the boiling water and right into the bowl without draining, added a few pats of butter on top, and then tossed gently with two spoons. Lastly, she topped with very finely grated reggiano.

Walnut Pesto
Pesto di Noci

serves: 6 main courses

This uncooked dressing, enriched with ricotta and butter, is delicious and quite different from the herb-based pestos I’ve found in other regions. You can blend it together in a bowl while the pasta water is heating up and have a distinctive pasta appetizer or main course in minutes. To retain its vibrant, fresh flavors, it is important not to cook the pesto, just toss it with the pasta and serve.

For the Pesto
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups walnut halves, or pieces, toasted
1½ cups ricotta, preferably fresh
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons Grana Padano, freshly grated, or more for passing
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons butter, softened

For the Pasta
1 pound tagliatelle

Put the walnuts and garlic in the food processor, and pulse until the nuts are chopped into very tiny bits (but don’t grind them to a powder). Scrape the ground nut-garlic mixture into the large bowl, and stir in the ricotta, olive oil, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper, until thoroughly blended. When the pesto is ready and the water is boiling, drop all the pasta into the pot at once, and stir to loosen and separate the strands. Cover the pot, and over high heat return the water to a boil rapidly. Set the cover ajar, and cook the pasta until the tagliatelle are perfectly al dente. Working quickly, lift out the tagliatelle with a spider and tongs, and drop into the bowl with the dressing. Drop the soft butter in dollops on the hot pasta, and toss until all the strands are nicely coated with the pesto- if the dressing is too thick, loosen it with a bit of hot water from the pasta pot as you toss. Serve immediately in warm bowls, with more grated cheese at the table.

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