Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baked Ziti with Walnut Sauce

Almost like an exotic mac n cheese.

I am a tomato and pasta kind of girl. I might consent to a creme sauce ala alfredo, but in general if it doesn't have tomatoes I wonder what's wrong with it. CCO, however, is an exotic sauce kind of guy. He's always trying to convince me to add strange things to our pasta like canned tuna or bacon (I'll admit that one was good). So when he said he wanted to make walnut sauce for pasta on meatless Monday, I balked a little. True I had a 10 lb bag of walnuts I bought at Costco on a whim, but still they didn't need to be used for pasta. He eventually wore me down and I consented to replacing tomato with nuts.

Eat Rating: Good, but not stellar. The walnut sauce is very subtle, you could almost miss it entirely. The dish overall ends up almost like an exotic type of mac n cheese, except it would need more cheese.
Difficulty: Medium. Requires a food processor or blender. Also a lot of cheese grating. Note: You can make the walnut sauce ahead of time, if desired.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

For the walnut sauce
1 slice of Italian bread
1/2 cup milk
1 cup walnuts
2 gloves of garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the baked ziti
1 lb ziti
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, grated or chopped
bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the milk in a small bowl and soak the bread in it. In a food processor, combine the nuts, garlic, cheese and marjoram. Gradually add the oil while the machine is still running. The mixture will form a thick paste. Squeeze out the bread and add it to the mixture, combining until the bread is completely diced. Add the milk. If your sauce is still a little thick (ours was) add a few tbsp of water. You want the consistency to be about that of thick tomato sauce, not like tomato paste.

Walnut sauce

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the ziti, about a minute or two less than the instructions on the box. (If you start this at the same time as the sauce, you won't have to wait as long).

Once the ziti is cooked, toss it with the sauce and half the mozzarella. Grease a baking dish and pour the ziti mix in. Top with the remaining mozzarella and bread crumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is browned.

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