Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oh the Pasta-Bilities: Croxetti with Walnut Cream Pesto

Leave it to my mom to spot the obscure pasta from across the room. During her recent trip to visit me in Napa, we were wandering the aisles of one of the many gourmet specialty shops in town, when she spied the plain brown paper packaging of a Genovese import. Called croxetti, the pasta is stunning: beautiful little coins about the size of a silver dollar, lightly embossed with a floral insignia. The package stated that the pasta was "ideal with pesto," but listed a recipe for a Walnut Sauce. Feeling adventurous - and hungry - we decided that we'd go home and make the walnut sauce, and if disaster ensued, we could top it with one of the many pestos that line the shelves of my fridge.

We didn't have to resort to Plan B, but almost. After assembling and prepping the ingredients as listed for the walnut sauce on the package, it became pretty clear that the recipe had been originally written in Italian... and was not very well translated. There was nothing resembling a sauce coming together in the kitchen. Not even close. Needless to say, we improvised.

The result is a walnut cream pesto. We figured that since the package claimed the croxetti's affinity for pesto, we couldn't go wrong. And it was good, especially when we added some fresh Italian Oregano to give the pesto a little color and depth of flavor. And if you can't find croxetti, just use it on your favorite pesto-friendly pasta (fettucini, for example).

Walnut Cream Pesto
  • 2 1/2 cups shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
  • Fresh Italian Oregano leaves, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, pour boiling water over the walnuts (enough to cover them); let soak for 3 minutes and then drain. Add the softened nuts and Parmesan cheese to the mixing bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to chop and combine. Add the heavy cream and 1/4 cup of olive oil; blend to a paste. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too dry. Add oregano and seasonings to taste; toss with croxetti or your favorite pasta. Top with additional shavings of Parmesan.

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