I have a bit of a mixed relationship when it comes to pasta. Yes, it’s delicious but also so simple a child can make. Mercifully I bypassed the Kraft dinner phase but having declared myself a vegetarian at about the same time I learned how to cook, I knew every variation of pasta primavera in the (or rather out of) the book. It never would have occurred to me to consult a cookbook for pasta. I mastered simple tomato sauce early on, added various veggies, sometimes cream or vodka, always parmesan and herbs. Puttanesca followed shortly after, mentioned by someone at college and the fiddled with until I got it right, and then much later when I started eating meat again, I looked up how to make a proper Bolognese, bucatini all’amatriciana and of course the near ever-present Carbonara. We ate those often, Matt and I. Over craft beers in our first – tiny – apartment (hunched over side tables because even though we weren’t in college we were both without the full spectrum of furniture), as a comforting surprise when one of us had worked late and often as a fallback plan – we always had the ingredients in house and it was always easy to make.
But still, it was not something I would order in a restaurant, unless as a primi in Italy or a high-end Italian place and by the time I was making homemade raviolis and tortellinis, I came to rely on recipes but it had still become too much a part of the kitchen. And then Matt realized he was Celiac and I started slimming and it felt like we would never eat pasta again.
Anyways, this is a lot of blah blah blah to say that when I received a copy of The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins (from Avery Press), I was dubious. What recipe would I make that wouldn’t feel like random seasonal ingredients?
Turns out there are quite a few to choose from. Luckily the book is quartered by seasons so I could easily zero on on what was available and delicious (most of it) and the recipe for Tagliatelle with Gorgonzola Cream and Walnuts jumped out at me. Turns out I am a total decadent at heart! Or else in mid-winter I care most about the flavours and fat I’m ingesting.
The recipe recommends using fresh tagliatelle for this dish because – like in a carbonara – the richness of the eggs and the simplicity of the ingredients doesn’t allow for gross imbalances. Between the gorgonzola cream and the walnuts, this is almost decadent recipe…so obviously it should be served in small amounts, ideally as a primi or at least with a big green, bitter salad. And oh man, it is good.
The richness of the cheese, the freshness of the pasta and especially the oiliness of the walnuts bring this dish together. A few simple ingredients combined in excellence.
Tagliatelle with Gorgonzola Cream and Walnuts
adapted from The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins
- 1 lb egg tagliatelle – preferably fresh and handmade
- 1 cup very fresh walnut halves
- 1 1/4 heavy cream
- 3/4 lb gorgonzola
- 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano or grana padano
- sea salt, as needed
- freshly ground black pepper
- fresh sage (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes – or until they are crisp and give off a delicious aroma. Remove and set aside to cool, then chop coarsely.
- Bring a pot (about 6 quarts) of water to a rolling boil in a large pot.
- In a small sauce pan over gentle heat, warm the cream, then add the gorgonzola and parmigiano-reggiano. Stir the cheese into the cream to melt into a sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Keep the sauce warm while the pasta is cooking.
- Add salt and pasta to the boiling water and cook following the directions. Fresh pasta takes only 2-3 minutes while dried pasta is usually about 8-10 minutes and gluten-free pasta can take up to 12 or 13.
- Heat a small amount of oil in a small sauce pan and add the sage leaves, frying until crispy. Remove and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and immediately turn it into a warm serving bowl, adding the sauce and about half of the chopped walnuts.
- Mix together, top with the rest of the walnuts, crispy sage and plenty of pepper. Serve immediately.
The Four Seasons of Pasta
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins
from Avery Press