Pasta with Walnut Sauce

MAKES: 4 About 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

A rich bread-thickened nut sauce that’s unbelievable with stuffed pasta. To make a nondairy version of this sauce, use about 1/2 cup bread crumbs with nondairy milk and omit the Parmesan.

Salt

1 thick slice Italian bread

1/2 cup milk

1 cup walnut or pecan halves

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound dried, fresh, or stuffed pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Soak the bread in the milk. Combine the nuts, garlic, cheese, and marjoram in a food processor and turn the machine on. With the machine running, add the oil gradually, using just enough so that the mixture forms a very thick paste. Squeeze out the bread and add it to the mix, which will be very thick. Now add the milk the bread soaked in and enough water to make a saucy mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. Drain it reserve some of the cooking water and toss with the sauce; if the mixture appears too thick, thin with a little of the pasta-cooking water (or more olive oil). Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve with more Parmesan.

Variations

Pasta with Walnut-Tomato Sauce. The acidity in the tomatoes lightens up the sauce a bit: Add 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped, or 1/2 cup chopped canned tomato; blend with the nuts in Step 1.

Pasta with Rich Walnut Sauce. Use cream cheese or cream if you don’t have mascarpone: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons mascarpone; blend with the nuts in Step 1.