Add Toasted Walnuts To Give Your Pasta Sauce A Richer Flavor

As far as nuts go, walnuts don't top our favorites list. They lack the creaminess of cashews and don't compare to pistachios' sweetness. We were all but ready to toss them aside before recipe developer Jennine Rye toasted them for an incredibly creamy pasta sauce and we realized the error of our ways. Who knew that a little heat could unlock the potential of walnuts?

Walnuts are earthy and mild, with a bitterness that can occasionally be looked past. They taste best when paired alongside earthy ingredients with some sweetness for a balanced flavor — think kale and roasted beet salads or cinnamon banana walnut smoothies. However, walnuts can also bring a delectable sort of depth to pasta sauces. We're no strangers to nutty pasta; in hazelnut cream pasta, the nuts bring a cozy element to the noodles, and walnuts can do the same. When toasted, the heat coaxes the natural oils out of walnuts, causing them to abandon their bitterness and take on a deeper, richer taste. 

The heady scent perfumes the Ligurian pasta with walnut cream sauce recipe developed by Rye, but the flavor is even more incredible. The walnuts are toasted for eight minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, before being pulsed in a food processor alongside milk-soaked bread, garlic, and parmesan, resulting in a luscious, earthy sauce. The sauce is then heated with heavy cream and folded into the cooked pasta. It may be a little dense, so thin it out with reserved pasta water.

What else can you use walnut cream pasta sauce for?

In Jennine Rye's recipe, she coats the sauce over trofie, a Ligurian pasta shape. Overall, the dish is simple, yet impactful; chopped toasted walnuts top off the garlicky, nutty sauce, finished off with a sprinkle of salty parmesan. The dish mirrors the traditional Ligurian one, but this delectable sauce shouldn't be sequestered to that alone.

The rich sauce has the most delicious flavor that resembles autumn's warmth and depth and can be paired with kinds of pasta that do the same. The walnut sauce enhances the sweet flavor of pumpkin in roasted pumpkin feta pasta. The creamy, pumpkin sauce has roasted garlic, boosting the earthy flavor in the walnut pasta sauce. Simply replace the pine nuts with toasted walnuts and enjoy the dish with simple roasted pork tenderloin and a glass of Pinot Gris. The sauce can also go over pumpkin or butternut squash gnocchi for a quick and delicious dinner.

If you're a fan of the walnut sauce over pillowy pasta, it also makes a wonderful pairing for ravioli. It can go with any one of your liking, but a creamy ricotta cheese ravioli is a solid choice. With the salty cheese flavor coming from within the pasta, it leaves room for more toppings on the walnut sauce. Pair the remaining toasted walnuts with a helping of herbed, spicy sausage or ground lamb for a meaty boost to the dish.