A simple pasta is what Nigella Lawson would call a perfect kitchen supper. It’s the type of eating that begins by sneaking a bit of each ingredient into your mouth while preparing. You’ll dip your finger into a simmering sauce more than necessary just because it tastes so good. And you’ll finish with a big bowl eaten at the kitchen counter, with the cooking pot in arms reach, ready for second helpings.
This kitchen supper was inspired by a fortuitous rain shower at the farmers’ market that sent me into the nearest marquee for shelter. The stall I sought refuge in presented fresh, creamy, meaty walnuts that bore little resemblance to the ones sold in the supermarket. They were so tasty, they formed the basis of a simple pasta.
The key ingredient to simple pasta is water. No really.
Water should be generously salted when cooking pasta. It should taste like the Mediterranean, pleasantly salty, wetting your appetite for simple and delicious Italian food. Tasting a saucepan of boiling water may seem odd, but good cooking requires every element to taste good, including the humble pot of water. Salted water will impart its seasoning onto your pasta, giving you a tasty base to build a meal from.
When the pasta is almost cooked, the water will have turned cloudy and starchy. This is when you dip a cup into the rolling boil to reserve some water for your sauce. Stirring it in to your drained pasta and sauce will add body, creaminess and help meld flavours together.
By using your cooking water to help season your pasta and build your sauce, you don’t need many ingredients to make the dish sing. A generous handful of fresh parsley, some fragrant garlic and sharp parmesan combine with the walnuts to make a kitchen supper worthy of that second helping.
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Walnut, Parsley and Parmesan Linguine
- 200g linguine
- 1/2 cup of walnuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 cup parsley leaves (plus extra for garnish)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan (plus extra for garnish)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid from pasta
- Salt and pepper
Put a big pot of water on to boil, add salt. While water comes to temperature, lightly toast walnuts in a pan, then chop into pieces. Roughly chop parsley leaves, grate parmesan and finely chop garlic. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Before you drain your pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain pasta.
In the saucepan you cooked the pasta in, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the garlic till lightly golden. Add parsley and walnuts and stir to meld flavours for a minute.
Return the pasta to the pot. Add the rest of the olive oil and enough cooking liquid to help coat the pasta with the other ingredients as you combine over a low flame. Add the parmesan and stir to create a creamy coating on the pasta.
Season to taste and garnish with extra parsley and parmesan to serve.