The flavor of this earthy peasant pasta dish is belied by the simplicity of its preparation: it is rich yet sutble, with a layering of fruity olive oil, sweet roasted garlic and just slightly bitter toasted walnuts, all blending to create a taste that is more than the sum of its parts. Homemade pasta and slow-roasted garlic make this a pleasant (and aromatic) lazy Sunday project; but if you have roasted garlic on hand, leftover, perhaps, from another recipe, and some good storebought pasta, this satisfying meal can be whipped up in minutes.
Our friend Tanya was visiting NYC this weekend and, in the midst of a quite formidable social schedule, braved the hour-long journey on Metro North to come and visit us on Friday night. Such dedication practically demands a special meal, but with the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, the larder was looking distinctly Friday-night slim. Gazing into the fridge for inspiration, I spied the extra heads of roasted garlic leftover from my Can Jam mustard, and remembered a fabulous recipe that I had not made in ages. Twenty ages to be precise: over 20 years ago, I made this dish for my parents when they came into Boston to see my first apartment post-college. I remember to this day how delicious that meal was, and how I basked in my parents’ praise. The only shocking thing is that I waited so long to make it again; but I can tell you, it was definitely worth the wait.
Adapted (barely) from Roasted Garlic and Walnut Pasta in The New Basics by J. Russo and S. Lukins
Roasted Garlic & Walnut Tagliatelle
- 2 heads garlic (about 20 cloves total)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground walnuts (use a mortar & pestle, a dedicated spice grinder, or a small food processor)
- 3/4 lb whole wheat tagliatelle (or other noodle pasta) , storebought or homemade
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- shaved Parmesan, for garnish
- Roast the garlic. Peel away most of the outer papery skin of the garlic heads, maintaining the cloves in the head. With a very sharp knife, slice away the top 1/4-inch of each head, exposing the cloves. Place in a small baking dish and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roast in a 350 degree F oven or toaster oven until tender and very fragrant, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool (reserve any remaining olive oil to use in the pasta sauce).
- Toast walnuts. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven, at 350 degrees F, for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly darkened.
- Make the pasta. If making homemade pasta, make and cut the dough, and allow at least 30 minutes of drying time prior to cooking.
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; fresh pasta will cook in 3 – 4 minutes, dried pasta in about 8 – 10 minutes, depending on the size and shape. Cook pasta until al dente, drain, and return to the pasta pot, covered to keep warm.
- Make the sauce. Pull the roasted garlic cloves out from their skins (I like a fork for this). In a small bowl, mash about 6 of the cloves with a fork, to form about 4 – 5 tbsp of garlic purée. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil (including any remaining roasted garlic oil) in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add ground walnuts and garlic purée and sauté over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more olive oil as necessary to keep sauce from sticking. Add remaining garlic cloves, toasted walnuts, chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through for 1 to 2 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings, and toss sauce with pasta, either in the pasta pot or in a large bowl for serving. Top with additional chopped parsley and shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 as a main course.
- Whenever I roast garlic, I make extra; I can always find a use for it. With roasted garlic cloves on hand, and storebought pasta, this dish can be whipped up in mere minutes (but it will taste like you slaved for hours). If you are roasting garlic especially for this dish, roast a couple of extra heads along with it; you’ll be surprised at how many uses you’ll find for roasted garlic when it is conveniently sitting in the fridge.
- Olive oil is essential to the rustic flavor of this dish; clarified butter or another animal fat (local to us in the Northeast) simply won’t taste the same. Buy a good quality, fruity olive oil and keep the heat low when making the sauce to maintain its flavor.
- My recipe is quite similar to the original; I increased the recipe to make 4 portions, roasted my garlic cloves in olive oil rather than in 1/4 cup of chicken stock and used homemade whole wheat pasta rather than standard linguine.
Best when served fresh and hot.
This can be made year round, but it is a fabulous dish for winter, given the rich & satisfying flavor; you don’t even miss fresh vegetables!