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I was in a marinara sauce rut.Addicted to the ease of cracking open a jar of sauce and tired of tomato stains on my plastic storage bins and utensils, it was time to do something novel with pasta. Inspired by a Food Network magazine suggestion in the corner of a small article, I gave this weeknight dinner a whirl. Complete with a sauce reduction that sounds Mario Batali fancy, yet this sumptuous dinner, is anything but taxing.

Granted, it took the kids a few minutes to get over that the pasta wasn’t drenched in red tomato sauce and that it had nuts in it, but I found that the bites of tortellini rather muffled their complaints and eventually they came around. The flavor combination of fresh sage, parmesan reggiano, and buttery walnuts is wonderfully rich and satisfying as is.

But when splashed with the sweetened balsamic reduction, the flavor goes to a new place that will have you using your fingers to get every drop.

Easy, that is, unless you get caught up in photographing walnuts from every possible sexy angle and let your balsamic reduction reduce to burned tar.

In all fairness, the original recipe suggests cooking the balsamic over medium-high heat. I do not. The next batch was easy and perfect because, much like kids, it wasn’t neglected.

We use the pasta water from the cooked tortellini to build the sauce and also to cook the broccoli rabe. After the tortellini cooked, we removed the pasta with a slotted spoon and set aside. Then, after we added one cup of the water to the sauce, we plunged the broccoli rabe into the pasta water.

sage & walnut tortellini drizzled with balsamic syrup

preptime: 10 minutes serves 4-6

cooktime: 20 minutes

1/4 c balsamic vinegar

2 t honey

1 bay leaf

1/3 c fresh sage leaves

1 c roughly chopped walnuts

6 T butter

1 lb pasta, cheese tortellini

1 bunch broccoli rabe

salt and grated parmesan, to taste

  1. Make balsamic reduction: Combine balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and bay leaf in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes to thicken. Watch so it doesn’t burn.
  2. Make sauce. In a large saucepan, melt butter, then add sage leaves, cook 3 minutes. Add one cup of the pasta water and reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
  3. Boil pasta in salted water with 1 T olive oil, according to package directions. Remove the pasta from the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add broccoli rabe to the hot pasta water and cook, with the burner off, for 5 minutes or to desired doneness.
  5. Add the tortellini and the walnuts to the pasta sauce to coat and heat through. Then pour onto a serving platter. Add the broccoli rabe to the platter.
  6. Drizzle the balsamic syrup on top. Add grated cheese and salt to taste. Serve

Cook’soptions: Use any shape pasta, but tortellini or ravioli will add flavor because of their fillings. Use your preferred vegetable or one you have ready: broccoli, asparagus, wilted greens, etc. all work well. Also, if you prefer, the walnuts to be softer and blend into the sauce, add them at the time you add the pasta water to the sauce.

recipe inspired by Food Network Magazine and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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