This was such a delicious and satisfying recipe. It comes from Alexa Weibel in NYTimes Cooking and it has so much flavor and depth that we’d make it again and again. And it’s flexible; you can increase the kick/spice by adding more crushed red pepper and you can change the flavor profile by using cashews instead of walnuts. There are a few stages to work through to create it, but it is worth it.
For this you’ll need: 1 lb rigatoni pasta, 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (jarred in oil, drained and roughly chopped), 1/2 cup walnuts (shelled and roughly chopped), 3 Tbsp tomato paste, 3 cloves garlic (chopped), 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1/2 cup roasted red peppers (jarred in oil, drained and roughly chopped), parmesan (grated), fresh basil (chopped), 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest, salt and pepper.
In a large skillet over medium heat heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add in the chopped sun dried tomatoes, walnuts, tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine but keep the heat low enough so that it doesn’t burn. Keep stirring until the mixture smells toasted and fragrant – about 5 mins. Remove from heat and let cool a little, then place into a bowl and set aside to come to room temperature.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Combine the roasted red peppers and about 1/2 cup grated parmesan in a food processor and pulse until a paste is formed. Add in the sun dried tomatoes and walnut mixture as well as 1/3 cup of olive oil and pulse again to combine everything into a smooth paste. Add a little more oil if you want it to be smoother.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water per the package instructions – generally about 11 mins to al dente. Drain and reserve about 1-1/2 cup of the pasta water. Place the drained pasta into a large serving bowl, add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and about 2/3 of the red pesto to the pasta. Stir everything together until combined well and the sauce is starting to smooth out. Add in water and more pesto until the consistency is what you like and everything is combined well.
Top with chopped, fresh basil and some grated lemon zest before serving.