Spaghetti with Walnut, Basil and Ricotta Sauce

When travelling in Italy, I became addicted to the simple rustic pasta dishes – just a few really good quality ingredients, a bottle of wine and bellisimo! My favorite was one that incorporated bread, nuts and herbs to make the sauce rather than the rich creamy sauces you often find here. You could use any nuts or herbs and add cooked chicken, seafood or fish to this dish, too.

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon walnut or olive oil, optional
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup arugula
  • For Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup diced ciabatta or baguette bread
  • 4-5 fresh basil leaves, sliced
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese, part skim

Directions

  1. Combine the walnuts and bread crumbs and place on baking tray. Bake in a 350ºF oven or under a broiler until nuts are toasted.
  2. Set aside 6-8 walnuts for garnish and transfer the remaining mixture to a food processor or bowl. Add the basil, lemon and cheese and grind or mash with a fork to a make a coarse crumble mixture.
  3. Cook the pasta according to directions on packet, drain, and return to pan with a few tablespoons of the cooking water, the oil, if using, and wine.
  4. Add arugula and cook until it has just wilted. Remove from heat and fold in the walnut sauce. Serve in large bowls and scatter with the remaining walnuts.


Based on a classic Italian pasta dish where the sauce is made from rustic bread soaked in milk and mixed with nuts and herbs to make a thick creamy sauce, my version is a little lighter, crunchier and bright.  Ricotta adds a salty rich note, and wine, lemon and arugula bring a fresh clean finish. Photography courtesy of the International Treenut Council www.nuthealth.com