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Walnut Rigatoni with Pomegranate

Walnut Rigatoni with Pomegranate

I didn't think I cared about walnuts until I had salsa di noci, a Ligurian sauce that truly stars the tree nut and all its waxy richness. I've made this even wintrier with red-tart pomegranate seeds (inspired by the Iranian dish fesenjan), which is more than welcome in this unctuous "cream" sauce. Scare quotes because the walnuts puree into a dairy-free whip that, when swathed in the starchy pasta, amalgamates into a luscious cream-like sauce—perfect for my more delicately constituted, cow-free friends.

1 pound rigatoni*
1 slice crustless day-old bread
1 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fat pinch coarse sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Pecorino romano, optional
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

*A hearty rigatoni holds up well to a sauce as sturdy as this one, but feel free to use any shape of pasta you want.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the rigatoni 1 minute less than the box says.

Meanwhile, pour the almond milk over the bread and let soak for 5 minutes.

After toasting the walnuts in a dry pan (just until fragrant and less raw), process it with the almond milk–soaked bread (plus almond milk), garlic, and olive oil.

Drain the pasta, keeping back a cup or so of the starchy cooking water. In the now-empty, still-hot pot, toss the rigatoni with the walnut sauce, thinning out with the reserved pasta water as needed. The sauce should be thick and creamy but not runny.

Finish with a fat smattering of parsley, salt (lots of it, to taste), pepper, and cheese (unless you want to keep this dairy free). Garnish with the pomegranate seeds.

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