Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 1/2 cup shelled walnuts
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches Swiss chard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb penne pasta
1/4 cup walnut oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the walnuts in a single layer on a bake sheet and toast them for 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove the tray and let the walnuts cool to room temperature before coarsely chopping them.
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet and slowly cook the onion pieces for 2-3 minutes until they wilt. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking over low heat while trimming the tough stems from the chard, rolling several leaves together at a time and cutting into one inch lengths. Add these to the skillet allowing them to soften and cook down over 5 minutes. Season with salt and grind on black pepper to taste. Reserve.
Heat 4 quarts of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta according to the directions on the packaging. Drain but reserve 1/4 cup of cooking water.
Reheat the chard mixture, fold in the pasta and work in the pasta water. Stir in the toasted walnuts. Drizzle a tablespoon of walnut oil over each serving.
Cheese: If you want to add cheese, pick a semi-soft cheese from the region such as a Ossau Iraty. Shave or dice the cheese and scatter over each serving just before serving.
This recipe was adapted from one that appeared in Saveur magazine in 2002.