Recipe Image
Carol Kicinski
Try this holiday inspired dish for a quick and delicious dinner during the busy season!

Easy dinner for a busy season

Author Byline Image   Any chance you need to get dinner on the table fast these days? OK, you probably need to get dinner on the table fast most days but these pre-holiday days are probably a tad more hectic than usual, am I right?
   This is a quick pasta dinner that doesn’t take much longer to prepare than it takes to cook the pasta. But don’t be fooled by its efficiency; the dish is luxurious, pretty, and fancy-schmancy enough for special occasions.
   Pasta with walnut sauce is a classic dish from the Liguria region of Italy. It typically contains walnuts, cheese, a bit of garlic, and cream. I find that the walnuts themselves give the sauce a creamy texture and I make mine without the cream. For this holiday version I also dressed it up with some red and green; pomegranates and arugula to be exact. I knew the arugula would be great because of its slightly peppery flavor but the pomegranates were a surprise. Truth be told, I just threw them in to make the dish pretty.
Gluten-Free Pasta with Walnut Sauce
Serves 4-6
Kosher or fine sea salt
1 pound gluten-free penne pasta
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 large garlic cloves
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby arugula
½ cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
   Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the penne according to the package directions.
   While the pasta is cooking, toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Reserve a small handful for garnish and put the rest in a blender or food processor with the garlic, cheese, and vinegar. Pulse several times until finely ground. With the machine running, pour in 4 tablespoons of olive oil and blend until thick and smooth.
   When the pasta is done, reserve about 2 cups of the starchy cooking water and drain the pasta. Pour the pasta back into the hot pan and drizzle with another tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat. Add the walnut sauce and some of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat. Add more pasta water as necessary until all the pasta is coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the arugula and pomegranate seeds and stir gently. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese.
But I ended up loving the brightness in flavor (as well as color) that they added to the dish.
   I love the way that brown rice penne goes with this dish, the brown rice pasta stands up to the sauce better than white rice pasta and the penne holds the sauce really well. I use gluten free organic penne in this recipe. Fresh pomegranates are so much better than frozen. To easily remove the seeds from a pomegranate, simply cut it in half, squeeze and tug on a half
and then hold it upside down over a bowl. Hit the shell of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon and the seeds just fall out. If you are dairy free, omit the Parmesan cheese and add a little nutritional yeast or just some extra salt.
   OK, enough chatting, time to get back to your shopping and wrapping, and whatever else you need to do! But don’t forget to eat dinner.