One of my favorite things to do is re-purpose things in new and creative ways. Last week I made the traditional Georgian Salad – which is covered with an herb-less walnut pesto-like dressing. I had a bunch of the walnut dressing leftover and wanted to think outside of the box. It was a dreary day and pasta was calling my name, as was the 1/2 package of bacon waiting for a purpose as well.
SHOPPING LIST: 1 box pasta, 1/2 package bacon, fresh thyme, walnuts, chopped garlic, lemon, olive oil, butter, milk, salt, pepper, garlic salt
For the walnut dressing: In your food processor, add 1/2 cup of walnuts and 1 heaping tB. of chopped garlic. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pulse until the mixture comes together like a thick pesto. You WANT there to be bits of walnut – DO NOT EMULSIFY THIS INTO MUSH. Add 1-2 extra tB. of olive oil if your walnut dressing needs more liquid to properly pulse.
Par-cook your pasta. I used rotini because it’s a thicker, creamier dressing so I wanted a noodle that had lots of grooves for the sauce to get stuck into. Strain your pasta and toss with a little bit of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together! Chop up your fresh thyme so you have about 1 tB. of fresh chopped thyme to add to the pasta when it’s finished.
Chop your bacon (about 6 strips), and start it in a COLD saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and continue cooking your bacon until it’s thoroughly crisp and all of the bacon fat has rendered out. Add 1 tB. of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, the juice of one lemon and 3 heaping tBs. of your walnut dressing. (The lemon is important here to BRIGHTEN the heavier flavors). Mix well with a wooden spoon. Once your sauce comes to a simmer, re-add your pasta and allow the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. Season with a bit of garlic salt and add your fresh chopped thyme right before serving. Here’s a close-up so you can really see how satisfying this creamy pasta is 🙂
In retrospect, I am realizing a handful of freshly toasted and lightly salted WHOLE walnuts would have been a nice garniture for this dish. The addition of whole walnuts would also add an extra level of crunch to the crispy bacon and smaller walnut bits. SO, reserve some walnuts for the very end if you have some extra. Otherwise, this paired perfectly with a chilled glass of red wine and made a rainy day a little less dreary.