Walnut Pasta with Raisins

walnut pasta

There are many different Lenten practices between Ash Wednesday and Easter that include fasting, abstaining from eating meat, or simply giving up a favorite food like chocolate or ice cream. Over the years, the tradition of fasting or eating Lenten foods has become less strict. But in my family, we almost always observed Lent by eating pasta on Fridays. Cabbage and noodles or pot cheese and noodles are some popular Lenten dishes for Hungarians. Pasta makes a good choice for a Lenten meal, because it's filling while also being humble.

In Hungarian culture it's also commonplace to eat sweet pasta dishes for Lent. When I was a kid, my favorite sweet pasta dish was my mom's walnut noodles, which consisted of buttered egg noodles sprinkled with ground walnuts and a little powdered sugar. The same dish can also be done with poppy seeds. I really liked the sweet and nutty taste of the dish because it's almost like having dessert and dinner all rolled into one. So for Lent this year, I decided to upgrade the dish and add a few twists to make it a bit more rich in flavor and texture. And instead of wide egg noodles, I use springy Italian pasta for some fun.

To create the nutty flavor base of this recipe, start by toasting the ground walnuts in butter. Then add wine and raisins. While the wine reduces the raisins plump up. Stir in cream to make the sauce a bit richer and creamier. I like serving the walnut sauce on top of springy noodles, such as bucatini arriciatti. It's an Italian pasta that is shaped like a corkscrew and has a hole down the center like a straw. It's a playful noodle that adds some interest to this creative dish. The walnut-raisin sauce is nutty, sweet, and creamy and it clings to the pasta nicely. It really makes a perfect Lenten meal.

Walnut Pasta with Raisins and Sweet Wine

12 ounces bucatini arriciatti or fusilli col buco
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup ground walnuts, plus more for serving
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups sweet white wine, such as Hárslevelű or Muscat
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of liberally salted water until al dente.

While pasta cooks, make the sauce. Melt butter in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast for 2 minutes. Add raisins and wine and bring to a simmer. Reduce wine by half. Stir in sour cream. Lower the heat. Add pasta and toss
 gently until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.


  1. Joseph, thanks for this wonderful recipe and for bringing back memories of my own childhood as the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. Many nights we'd have a supper of noodles topped with ground nuts and cinnamon sugar; or a scoop of farmer's cheese with sugar and raisins; or even just a spoonful of homemade preserves. Occasionally it would be preceded by a bowl of "nothing soup" or vegetable soup. I think of my ancestors as the original vegetarians!

    I'm looking forward to preparing this dish for my own family. It has all the flavors they enjoy as well as a piece of their heritage.


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