For special occasions such as a New Year’s Eve dinner celebration, I like to sometimes serve a rich, decadent, and memorable dish like this one: Tortellini with nutty walnut-cream sauce. It is based on a dish that I used to enjoy in New York City at the late Alfredo Viazzi’s Trattoria da Alfredo restaurant in Greenwich Village. A perfect accompaniment would be a high-quality sparkling wine such as Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut (see “Sip o’ the Week”).
4 oz. shelled walnuts
1 Tbsp pine nuts
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp finely minced basil leaf
1 Tbsp finely minced Italian parsley
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
20 oz. stuffed pasta such as ravioli, tortellini, pansotti, agnolotti, etc.
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts and pine nuts for a few minutes until lightly browned. Toasting nuts before using intensifies their flavor. Set aside a tablespoon or two of the walnuts and chop them coarsely. These will be used later for garnish.
2. Place the remainder of the nuts into a food processor or clean coffee grinder. Pulse the processor until nuts are coarsely ground – not too fine. They should have the texture of nut topping for ice cream.
3. In a large skillet, melt butter over med-high heat. Then add the basil, parsley and garlic to the pan and cook until the garlic is softened, a couple of minutes.
4. Add the nuts to the pan and cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes.
5. Pour the cream into the pan and stir. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the sauce until the cream has thickened somewhat, about 10 minutes.
6. While the sauce is thickening, cook pasta according to package directions until barely al dente. Drain well.
7. When the cream has thickened, stir in half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Reduce the heat to low.
8. Place the cooked, drained pasta into the pan with the sauce and toss to coat the pasta well. Season with black pepper and salt, to taste.
9. Serve the pasta garnished with the reserved chopped walnuts and sprinkled with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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