Walnut Pesto Pasta Recipe

A savoury winter pasta with mushrooms and pesto — perfect for those who don't like tomato or heavy cream sauces.

Walnut Pesto
1 cup walnut halves, toasted for 5 minutes and cooled
1 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
A pinch of chopped garlic
A pinch of hot pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About 1/2 cup olive oil

3 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. mushrooms (such as portobello, cremini, oyster or shiitake), thinly sliced
A pinch of hot pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
1 lb. long or short pasta of your choice
Walnut Pesto* (see above)
Freshly ground pepper

* Calculate one generous spoonful of pesto per serving.


Walnut Pesto

Step 1: In a food processor, coarsely chop walnuts and parsley. Add Parmesan, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add oil to food processor, pulsing several times, until pesto is blended but not too smooth. Texture should remain coarse.


Step 1: In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heart and add half of the mushrooms. Season with salt to taste, and add a few of the hot pepper flakes. If using, allow mushrooms to brown for several minutes, adding a little of the remaining olive oil as necessary. When the mushrooms are nicely coloured on both sides, remove from the skillet. Repeat with remaining mushrooms. Keep warm.

Step 2: In a large pot of boiling slated water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Step 3: Toss pasta, pesto and some of the reserved cooking water until pasta is well coated.

Step 4: Serve pasta on individual plates topped with pan-fried mushrooms. Season with pepper to taste. As an alternative, replace mushrooms with fried butternut quash or zucchini, or serve alongside a salad of pear tomatoes seasoned with grated lemon zest and olive oil.

Reprinted with permission from Josée di Stasio's Pasta Et Cetera A La Di Stasio (2009 Transcontinental).


Jean Longpré