Penne with saffron, arugula and walnuts
This simple but flavor-packed recipe takes no more than 20 minutes to prepare. If you don’t have penne on hand, substitute a different kind of pasta, for example farfalle (butterflies) or tortiglioni.
For best results, used powdered saffron instead of threads, and start out with whole walnuts and a chunk of Italian parmesan (parmigiano-reggiano) that you grate yourself.
3 cups penne
1/2 cup (40 g.) whole walnuts, or 1/3 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup (1 dl) heavy cream
1 pinch saffron (about 1/8 tsp., or 1 dosette)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 handfuls arugula (rocket)
1-1/2 ounce (40 g.) parmesan, about 1/2 cup when grated
Measure out the penne and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
While the water is heating, prepare the other ingredients.
Grind the walnuts coarsely.
Pour the cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the saffron and salt, and stir. Do not turn on the heat for the moment.
Chop the arugula coarsely, leaving aside a few whole leaves for garnish.
Grate the parmesan.
When the water boils, add the pasta and stir. Cook according to the instructions on the packet for al dente pasta, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. When the pasta is ready, pour it into a colander and shake to drain thoroughly. (Hint: don’t pour water over it to rinse it. This is unnecessary and will cool the pasta, which you don’t want.)
Place the pot with the cream over low heat and stir to dissolve the saffron. Add the pasta. Stir to blend thoroughly. Add 4 tbsp. ground walnuts and stir. Add the chopped arugula and 4 tbsp. of grated cheese. Turn off the heat and stir a final time.
Serve piping hot in shallow bowls, decorated with the extra arugula leaves and a teaspoon of ground walnuts for each serving. Bring the extra parmesan to the table. Serves 2.
This dish makes a fine main course, accompanied by a green salad or a tomato salad. You can also serve it as a starter, in which case it will serve 4, not 2.
This recipe is vegetarian. For a vegan version, omit the cream and cheese. Mix the saffron with 1/4 cup olive oil and double the quantity of walnuts.
A simple and tasty dish, even though the bitter taste of walnuts and (bought) roquette prevailed more than expected. However, 1/2 cup of cream is certainly not 10 dl (one litre)! Rather, it should be about 120 ml.
Thank you, Jaroslav. You are absolutely right! Ten deciliters makes one liter. The recipe should have said 1 dl, or 10 cl, and I am now correcting it. As for the bitter walnuts, the best solution for ensuring freshness is to buy whole walnuts and shell them yourself. It’s a bit time consuming, but the results are well worth it — the walnuts will be sweet and chewy, unlike store-bought shelled walnuts, which have a short shelf-life and can turn bitter even before the sell-by date. I hope you try the recipe again. It has been a huge hit here at home when I’ve served it, to both my daughter and guests. All best, Meg
This sounds fabulous, Meg! Unusual combination of flavors — I can’t wait to try it!
I love the saffron color of this dish and the simple yet rich ingredients. Thanks Meg.
Looks delicious! Will try this soon. It is refreshing to see a pasta dish that does not require garlic or onions for flavor, as those flavoring so can be too strong for some. Thanks!