Pasta / Recipes

Pasta with Walnut and Ricotta Cheese Sauce

So I’m trucking along on my October 1976 Gourmet magazine project, and hit the walnut page. Eight of the 74 total recipes in the magazine are walnut related (there are a couple of hors d’ oeuvres that practically scream 1976) so I stocked up on walnuts and decided to make the first one: Pasta with Walnut and Ricotta Cheese Sauce.

This recipe is sort of like a pesto without the herbs; ricotta replaces the basil or parley or broccoli and walnuts stand in for pine nuts. But the overall effect is very much like a pesto, only it feels a little more dense, a little richer, more cool weather flavors, perhaps, than a traditional pesto. With the help of a food processor though, it is an incredibly easy dish to make – you can whip up the sauce is the time it takes to bring your pasta water to a boil.

Dr. Fiance and I have been discussing the dishes in the project and have determined that our favorites thus far are this one and the Daube Camargaise from last week. I think this one gets the edge if only because it didn’t take me two days to make – in fact, I whipped it up for a quick Sunday dinner in about 25 minutes, and most of that time was waiting for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Can’t beat that! Also, one final note: this makes the perfect amount of sauce for one pound of pasta – not too much that you waste some, not too little that you don’t get enough coverage on the pasta. Win.

Pasta with Walnut and Ricotta Cheese Sauce


1 lb fettucini or other pasta noodles
1.5 Cup walnuts, divided
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
3 tb minced parsley
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt plus more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper plus more to taste
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then cook the pasta to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, pulse 1 cup walnuts, parmesan, parsley, garlic and black pepper in a food processor until walnuts have been chopped very fine. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in the ricotta and olive oil. Mix by hand until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.* IN a small saucepan over low heat, toast remaining half cup of walnuts. Drain finished pasta and mix with the sauce until all the noodles are covered. Serve immediately with toasted walnuts on top.

*Make sure to check the sauce to see if it needs additional salt. The level of saltiness will depend on the type of parmesan you use, and may need to be adjusted before adding the pasta.

1 Comment

  • kitchenriffs
    August 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Your Gourmet magazine project is way cool. Describing this dish as herb-less pesto is right on. I’ve never made a walnut pesto dish (I’ve seen other recipes before; and actually remember reading this recipe in Gourmet in 1976), but it sounds terrific. Good job with this – thanks.


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