When I travel, one of my greatest joys is sampling as much of the local food as possible. But on long trips, even I get a little weary. Sometimes I crave more familiar flavors, sometimes I am just too tired to search out a specialty restaurant and just want what’s close. And sometimes, this pays off. I had amazing, perfect pizza in Toledo, Spain because that was the restaurant in front of us when we needed to escape the crowds. Some of the best French fries I have ever eaten were in Cairo, when I just needed French fries. In India, I’ll remember amazing curries and street snacks, but also a perfect osso bucco in Mumbai.
And that’s how this recipe came about. Toward the end of three weeks in Southeast Asia, I needed a little break from sampling the local specialties. So I ended up in an Italian restaurant in an upscale hotel in Bangkok. The main course of veal crespelle was gorgeous and complex, the gelato sampler creamy and delicate. But what struck me the most, the dish I knew I’d be making at home as soon as the plate hit the table, was this pasta with creamy gorgonzola, crisp green apples and toasted walnuts. I was so amazed at its simplicity, the blending of ingredients that go so well together, I was a little astonished I’d never seen the dish before. Or thought of it myself. I am sure the restaurant chefs had a more complex recipe, and undoubtedly made their own pasta, but I’ve come darn close to the original.
So I came home from Thailand with recipes for pad thai, fish cakes, curry dishes, larb, sticky rice…and pasta with gorgonzola. I make this for myself as a quick dinner all the time. I’ve scaled it here to generously serve two as dinner, but feel free to go up or down. Ingredients are what matter, not proportions.
Pasta with Gorgonzola, Apples and Walnuts
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 large green apple
1 cup walnut halves
1 Tablespoon butter
¾ cup half and half
½ pound gorgonzola cheese, cut into small pieces
½ pound thin pasta, like linguine or bucatini
Mix the lemon juice with about ½ cup water in a small bowl. Core the apple and cut it into small pieces. Drop the pieces into the acidulated water and stir to coat. Make sure the apples are covered by liquid, adding more water if necessary. Set aside. This step is important, as it prevents the apples from browning.
Toast the walnuts in a wide skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. The nuts are done when they are slightly browned and release a lovely, nutty fragrance. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Transfer the nuts to a plate to cool, then break into small pieces.
Melt the butter with the half and half in a saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture is just bubbling (do not let it boil), drop in most of the gorgonzola and stir to melt. Save a bit to sprinkle on top the pasta. Remove from the heat.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving some of the starchy cooking water, then place the noodles back in the large pan over low heat. Pour in the gorgonzola cream and toss well to coat. If you’d like a little thinner sauce, or need it to stretch a bit to coat the noodles, stir in a little of the pasta water. Toss in the drained apple pieces and the toasted walnuts.
Serve the pasta in bowls, with some extra gorgonzola, apples and walnuts on top if you’d like. Salt to taste.