Iain Bagwell
Total Time
1 Hour 20 Mins
Makes 8 servings

The combination of flavors here plays up the nutty flavor of whole-grain penne. Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. Notes: Ricotta salata (also called "hard ricotta") is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing, and drying sheep's-milk ricotta. In flavor, it's like a very mild, nutty, less tangy feta, which makes it a natural addition to pastas and salads (it can also be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets, or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

How to Make It

Step 1

In a large frying pan over high heat, cook onions in 3 tbsp. olive oil with sugar and 2 tsp. salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Step 2

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan (not nonstick) over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

Step 3

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup cooking water.

Step 4

Toss caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper, and remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Serve hot.

Step 5

Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.

Ratings & Reviews

omnivore's Review

November 21, 2008
Very interesting! Like nothing I've ever tasted. I only used 5 onions, and only 8 oz. of FETA (couldn't find ricotta salata anywhere). I really liked it, husband thought it was "okay". It didn't seem to need any of the "reserved cooking water", so I omitted that.

janerj's Review

May 14, 2011
i'd been holding onto this recipe for a while, and finally got around to making it. It was delicious! i only made half the recipe, but otherwise followed it as it said. great nutty flavor balanced by the lemon and parsley. will definitely make again.

eljanino's Review

October 22, 2009
Love this recipe. I make it all the time w/brown rice penne. The combination of carmelized onions, toasted walnuts, flat leaf parsley and ricotta salata is amazing. I tend to make the recipe a little drier by not adding water and using more pasta than called for. It makes great leftovers too.

foxglove999's Review

October 08, 2014
I liked the idea of pasta with caramelized onions, walnuts and ricotta salata, but there wasn't a real sauce with this, so I made a pumpkin cream sauce to add to this. With that addition, it was amazing, but I can't honestly give 5 stars to the recipe as is. The concept was good, but it needed some help.

NicoleB328's Review

November 20, 2010
Delicious! Love this flavor combo! Made with egg noodles instead of whole-wheat penne. Would definitely make again -- the dish comes out pretty enough to serve to company, especially vegetarians.