Penne in Creamy Basil-Walnut Sauce

Karry Hosford
Essentially a pesto made with walnuts instead of pine nuts, this hearty sauce is a specialty in the Tuscan countryside. Thickening the sauce with milk-soaked bread cuts down on both olive oil and cheese. The sauce will darken quickly, so process the pesto just before serving.


6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

Recipe from

Nutritional Information

Calories 378
Caloriesfromfat 23 %
Fat 9.6 g
Satfat 1.5 g
Monofat 2.6 g
Polyfat 4.3 g
Protein 13.6 g
Carbohydrate 61.1 g
Fiber 3.7 g
Cholesterol 3 mg
Iron 3.3 mg
Sodium 365 mg
Calcium 95 mg


2 (1/2-ounce) slices white bread
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 pound uncooked penne rigate pasta
Chopped parsley (optional)


Trim crusts from bread. Place bread in a shallow dish; pour milk over bread. Let stand 5 minutes. Place bread mixture in a food processor; add basil and next 6 ingredients (basil through garlic). Set aside without processing.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoons cooking liquid. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add reserved cooking liquid to basil mixture in food processor, and process until smooth. Add the pesto to pasta; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.


Michol Negrin,

May 2004