Though we plan on visiting many local restaurants (including Nestor’s pizzeria, which I already mentioned), we also want to take advantage of the scrumptious local produce, cheese, olive oil, and other products and make meals at home (not to mention enjoy the Italian shopping experience, and follow some semblance of a budget). I may not blog it up about every single morsel made at home—for example, I had an out-of-sight sandwich for lunch today, with radicchio, mozzarella fresca, these amazingly sharp little gerkins, and mayo (Italian mayonnaise is richer and yellower, if you wondered), but I didn’t feel the need to photograph it. However, I did feel the need to photo up and write out our first substantial meal made here at Cielo Chiaro, which was penne with walnuts. It was a great explosion of textures, with the al dente pasta and the crunch of the walnuts bouncing off each other, accented by rich local olive oil, freshly sautéed onions, and some just-grated wonderful Parmigiano Reggiano. Not only did Nat whip it together with aplomb, she also husked and cracked the walnuts after picking them up around the walnut tree in our yard. Here’s the end result, with the recipe below:
Penne e Noce
500 grams Penne pasta (or 17-ish ounces)
Butter (approximately a Tablespoon or two)
Olive oil (also approximately a Tablespoon or two--see Note)
1 small onion, chopped
1 to 1-1/2 cups walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Directions:1. Begin cooking the pasta according to package directions.
2. Add the butter and olive oil to a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and bubbled, add the onion. Sauté, stirring regularly, until the onion is a golden color, 5 to 7 minutes (there should be a bit of an excess of oil and butter that the onion is wading in). Remove it from the heat.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it, and then toss with the onion/oil/butter mixture and the walnuts.
4. Spoon pasta into bowls and top with the cheese and with pepper (black or red as you enjoy) and salt if needed.
A Note: As mentioned, you want a little excess oil and butter as they, once infused by the onion, create a lovely coating for the pasta and mingle nicely with the walnuts.