Walnut Pasta with Raisins

walnutpasta.jpgThere are many different Lenten practices between Ash Wednesday and Easter that include fasting, abstaining from eating meat, or simply giving up a favorite food like chocolate or ice cream. Over the years, the tradition of fasting or eating Lenten foods has become less strict. But in my family, we almost always observed Lent by eating pasta on Fridays. Cabbage and noodles or pot cheese and noodles are some popular Lenten dishes for Hungarians. Pasta makes a good choice for a Lenten meal, because it's filling while also being humble.

When I was a kid, my favorite Lenten dish was my mom's walnut noodles, which consisted of buttered egg noodles sprinkled with ground walnuts and a little powdered sugar. The same dish can also be done with poppy seeds. I really liked the sweet and nutty taste of the dish because it's almost like having dessert and dinner all rolled into one. So for Lent this year, I decided to upgrade the dish and add a few twists to make it a bit more rich in flavor and texture. And instead of wide egg noodles, I use springy Italian pasta for some fun.

To create the nutty flavor base of this recipe, start by toasting the ground walnuts in butter. Then add wine and raisins. While the wine reduces the raisins plump up. Stir in cream to make the sauce a bit richer and creamier. I like serving the walnut sauce on top of springy noodles, such as this fusilli col buco. It's an Italian pasta that is shaped like a corkscrew and has a hole down the center like a straw. It's a playful noodle that adds some interest to this creative dish. The walnut-raisin sauce is nutty, sweet, and creamy and it clings to the pasta nicely. It really makes a perfect Lenten meal.

Pasta with Walnut-Raisin Sauce

Note: Fusilli col buco is also known as fusilli bucati lunghi. If you can't find it, substitute bucatini or perciatelli.

12 ounces fusilli col buco
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup ground walnuts, plus more for serving
2 cups sweet white wine, such as Hárslevelű or Muscat
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of liberally salted water until al dente.

While pasta cooks, make the sauce. Melt butter in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast for 2 minutes. Add wine and raisins and bring to a simmer. Reduce wine by half. Stir in cream. Simmer gently until sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Add pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.


Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, butabove all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for foodon his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.