This spaghetti sauce is a creamy, pungent walnut-thickened pesto that is thinned out with a small amount of cooking water from the pasta. Break up the broccoli florets so the flowers are quite small. They will absorb the sauce in the nicest way when you toss everything together.
1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoot removed
2 tablespoons shelled walnuts (about 3/4 ounce)
1 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus additional for sprinkling (Pecorino can be substituted for some of the Parmesan)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt to taste
1/2 pound broccoli crowns, broken into small florets
1 pound spaghetti
About 1/4 cup pasta cooking water (more to taste)
1. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, turn off and scrape down the bowl. Add the walnuts and basil and process to a paste. Add the ricotta, 2 tablespoons warm water, and Parmesan and pulse until well blended. Add the olive and walnut oils and process until smooth and homogenous. You can also make this in a mortar and pestle. Taste and add salt as desired. Transfer to a wide pasta bowl.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and continue to boil until the pasta is al dente, about 4 more minutes. Before draining the pasta, remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add 1/4 cup of it to the ricotta mixture and stir until well blended. The sauce should have a creamy consistency (add more of the pasta water if necessary). Drain the spaghetti and broccoli and toss at once with the sauce. Serve, passing Parmesan or Pecorino on the side.
Yield: Serves 6
Advance preparation: You can make the dish through Step 1 several hours before cooking the pasta and serving.
Nutritional information per serving: 411 calories; 13 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 4 grams polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 7 milligrams cholesterol; 60 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 85 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 14 grams protein
Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times