Sunday, January 25, 2009

Toasted Walnut Pasta

It isn't that I'm particularly shy. It's just that playing the piano in public makes me, well nervous, sweaty, and generally uncomfortable. It started in first grade at my first recital at Gladys Simcock's school of piano. I'd always enjoyed playing "Papa Haydn" at home with my wild brothers and sisters running around, but my fingers felt like uncoordinated blocks of wood when people sitting in folding chairs were sitting still and actually listening to the music I was producing. Gradually with time and multiple disharmonious errors, I was able to overcome my fear and play an occasional hymn at church, accompany the random soloist who couldn't find anyone better, and substitute for children's singing time for Sunday school. But now that my children are becoming better violinists with more and more opportunities to play in public, I've been forced into that awkward spot of lengthy public piano playing. Like today. The two charges were asked to prepare a special musical number for today's services. They shimmied proudly to the front of the congregation and put their bows into playing position. I, on the other hand, gulped, walked stiffly to the piano, with several sheets of music crammed into sweaty armpit. Doggone it, I thought I'd already conquered this Goliath. Only now, it's worse. Much worse, because not only am I nervous for myself, I'm also nervous for them. (Especially because they don't have the good sense to be nervous at all, counfound it! They don't even consider the what ifs, the maybes, the potentials for imperfections. And I sure don't want to tell them.) So instead of just my fingers feeling like blocks of wood like before, now my whole body feels like a double for Robocop. Robocop just can't be that artistic on the piano in church, no matter how many hours he practices at home. Truthfully, the music came out just fine, actually beautifully, if you were only listening to the violins, and just fine if you were listening to the pale-faced and clammy accompanist.
So here's my question for you, dear readers:
What makes you nervous? Is it public speaking, dancing, going to a restaurant alone, playing an instrument on stage, giving a speech, delivering a presentation at work, asking for a raise, getting weighed at the Dr.'s? What is it? Leave me a comment and help me feel better about my own adolescent bout of panic.
In the meantime, here's a simple recipe that so simple that it wouldn't cause the least anxiety in anyone. It's fast-20 minutes, healthful (think heart-healthy nuts), and downright creamy and delicious. This luxurious blender sauce will be ready in the time it takes to boil your pasta. (You can always add some cooked shrimp or chicken for a fuller meal, too.) It's so perfectly delicious that I dub it my new favorite. Now at least I don't have to panic over dinner. Phew!
Money Saving Tips:
If you are a nut lover, buy the big bags and save a few pennies. If not, and they end up going bad before they can be used, try buying from the bulk bins, a cup or two at a time. They may cost a little more, but it's worth it not to waste. Pasta dinners are still one of the cheapest choices around, so keep your cupboard stocked with a variety of shapes.
Toasted Walnut Pasta
Slightly Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Estimated Cost: $5.50

3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 clove garlic, minced
1 slice bread, crusts removed
2/3 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
1 ounce grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pound any flat short pasta (I used whole grain)
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, and toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until they begin to make a nutty aroma. Put the bread in a bowl and cover with the milk. Put most of the toasted walnuts (reserving about 1 ounce for garnish) into a blender along with the garlic, bread soaked in milk, and Parmesan. Blend until it turns smooth and creamy, then pour in the oil and season well with salt and pepper before blending again.
Pour into a bowl, and set aside.
Add pasta to boiling water with salt and cook for the required amount of time. When pasta is al dente, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking liquid and then drain the pasta, but put it in to a large bowl while it's still dripping slightly with water. Sprinkle a little olive oil over the pasta to prevent it sticking together, and then add the walnut sauce, mixing it into the pasta (splash in a little pasta cooking liquid to make the sauce less thick if needed).
Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and toss them over the top along with some more Parmesan and the chopped parsley.
Come Back for a Chinese New Year Dinner:
Orange Sesame Chicken, Year Long Noodles, Soy-Honey Broccoli and
Almond-Brown Sugar Cookies


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

I used to perform in piano recitals, and would ALWAYS get really nervous - I'm like you, for sure!! :-)

Divine pasta dish variety!!

taylor said...

college western civ exams, doing anything in front of a crowd, and going at things alone are usually evens that rattle my nerves! can't wait to try this dish!

Sharon said...

Oh, this looks amazing! I'm not a huge walnut fan, but considering they're so good for you I'm trying to incorporate them.

I'm not a shy person at all, but giving a presentation to a room full of people makes my face turn red! Then, I get self conscious about my face, then I get know where I"m going!

Erica said...

Hey I love your blog! I was wondering if I could add your blog to my recipe blog list on my site. Would that be ok? My site is:
and you can email me at

Thanks! Keep up the good work! I am loving your recipes!


Sophie said...

How neat that you play the piano! :) Though I'm quite nervous about performing in front of folks, I'd have to say I get the most nervous for my extended family! :P

Veronica said...

I'm a shy-extrovert...shy until I feel comfortable in a situation and then not shy at all. I'm nervous speaking in front of large groups.

Mary Ann said...

This pasta looks super and I am excited to see your Chinese New Years menu. We celebrated it last week just for fun.
Let's see- what makes me nervous... getting weighed definitely, but that is more of a sick feeling.
I would have to go with running any kind of competitive race.

Janssen said...

I am so nervous whenever I have to quit a job or ask for time off or for any special considerations at all. EEK!

Prudy said...

YOu bet and welcome! Thanks for the kind words.

Jen @ said...

Hi Prudy!

Great post! I think it's harder for me to WATCH my kid perform in public than for me to do it. I am TERRIFIED of speaking in public and haven't done it in a long time. It's my worst fear.

That pasta looks yummy. It has been fun eating out while we have been out of town, but I am starting to get the itch of getting back to real life and that dish looks yummy. I am going to make it when we get back.



Jenn said...

When I took piano lessons I promised my mom I would forget everything I learned. I was bound and determined NOT to thank her some day for this. Yes, I was stubborn. Yes, I thank her now. And...I broke out in a rash on the only morning I've ever played in public. A year ago I accompanied my husband and children who sang in church. The rash went away the next day. Just nerves!

Unknown said...

I can honestly tell you that I get nervous when I have to do any speaking in public, especially church. I have flat out told my church leaders that I will not speak or give the prayer so they better not even bother and ask. I will turn around and walk right now. Just the thought of speaking in public gives me panic attacks! I start to sweat, can't speak and eventually start crying hysterically!

kenzeeloo said...

I can't picture you being nervous to do anything, you scream self confidence to me. :-) But, we all deal with that. I have finally over come my fear of playing the piano in public, (except for funerals, never liked those - I feel it is too important an event and I might somehow ruin it, I know ridiculous - I'm sure I'd do fine. Just one of those things). I used to be very shy growing up, but I'm pretty outgoing now. I don't think I will ever enjoy public speaking though --eek.

By the way, I'm so going to try this one, it looks so good and simple!!!

MK and Co. said...

That pasta looks so delicious! I know my husband would love it if I mixed in this beautiful recipe in with my normal, quick, very prosaic, weekly red sauce pasta.
I have several things that make me nervous. Anything involving crafts. You mention them and I can literally feel intelligence oozing out of me. I also cannot stand to say prayers in church. I can't seem to grasp any of my thoughts if I have to close my eyes. Also I had trouble once wrapping up a prayer and ended up rhyming in it and I have never been the same since!

Adrienne said...

Parties are my worst fear. I seriously considered eloping so I wouldn't have to deal with a reception. Giving a party ruins my entire month and I literally send my family out of the house the day of the fete. So, I've only thown like, two parties. And I don't like going to parties either. All that standing around trying to talk to people one on one...I'll do anything to avoid it.

But speaking or performing in front of a crowd? Not that big of a deal. Especially once I've started. Those are some of my favorite things to do.

Suzie said...

Exams always made me literally ill with nerves. Thank heavens it is more than 15 years since I sat one. I love Nigella's pasta recipes - if you are an anchovy person, her anchovy pasta is wonderful.

judith said...

I used to dance in a lot of recitals, I'd always feel like I was going to pee my pants the second I was going on stage... but the feeling would go away the minute I got on stage. My husband will almost pass out and it's all he can to to watch our daughter sing in public... she's not nervous a bit, but it is agonizing to him. He's afraid she'll be embarrassed if she goofs up... she just laughs and says "I forgot that part!"

This dish looks incredible.

gigi said...

Doctor's appointments make me nervous.

Love the walnut pasta idea. Toasted nuts of any kind are such a great addition to nay meal. Can't wait to try this one.

grace said...

i think papa haydn was the first song i learned in its entirety--good memories. :)
and hey--great pasta dish. walnuts don't meet noodles often enough.

Cathy said...

I get nervous whenever I have to argue in court. I have to do it often enough that I probably SHOULD be more comfortable with it by now, but not so often that I actually AM comfortable with it. I am generally fine once I start, but I feel downright sick to my stomach during the 24 hours preceding the moment.

I am making this pasta dish this week. This is exactly the kind of meal that my hubs and I both love!

Stephanie said...

Going to the gym makes me nervous. Everyone else always looks like they *belong* there, and I feel so out of place.

Catherine said...

This pasta dish looks delicious! And I'm always very appreciative of vegetarian dinners. =)

As for your your question, public speaking, playing a musical instrument in public (unless the song is VERY easy), and not always but currently and hopefully only temporarily, getting weighed at the doctors.

I wish I could have seen/heard Sailor and Westy play. I was so glad that I got to hear them the last time we were there. And I'm sure you were great too!

Anonymous said...

Oh that looks so yummy!

Fear is a terrible, terrible thing. What makes me sweat, my mouth go dry and break out in a rash is speaking in public. I can't handle it.


Anonymous said...

The pasta sounds simple and delicious. Dancing makes me nervous. I don't have rhythm and it always seems like I have to get up and dance at weddings and other functions.

Aggie said...

Erin, When I opened up your blog and saw the name of this pasta and then the picture I said WOW.

Then I ready your post and my heart started racing. I get sick over public speaking! I really do. I cringe when I am in a group and the "leader" suggests going around the room and introducing ourselves. GULP.

Aunt Spicy said...

Props to you for doing it, even though you were nervous! For me, social events, especially if its a party where I will only know one or two people. I am petrified and it takes a lot for me to actually go.

Maria said...

The pasta looks yummy! I hate speaking in church. I don't get nervous when I lecture at work, etc. but church scares me:)

Lainee said...

i just have to say the musical number was WAY better than fine, it was FABULOUS!! You and the little ones did a great job yesterday!

The situation that makes my stomach churn... giving a talk in front of people, or even just making a comment in sunday school class! As you know, I am always on the back row!! :)

Marjie said...

Being in front of a crowd. Even just standing, not speaking. Congrats to you and the little ones for doing well! And this pasta looks just great - a fine way to relax after a stressful day!

Mary Ellen said...

This looks like something I recently had in a restaurant, but better. I gave you an award/link on my blog. To see it, go to

The Blonde Duck said...

I love this pasta. I'm making it.

I'm terrified of public speaking. I've been told I'm good at it, but my leg always shakes. It shook during all my college presentations, it shook during my wedding and it shook during a speech I gave for work. And this isn't a tremble--it's like full body spasm. I have to pace to hide it or stand behind a podium, and apparantly, my wedding dress desguised it. Plus, I feel like I can't breath and I'm gasping for air.

NKP said...

I'd say public speaking and crowds. I do like my pasta though, this looks very comforting.

Anonymous said...

Me too Erin!!!! I do not like public speaking unless I am OVERLY prepared, even then... well... I want to run the other way.

This looks not only amazing but scrumptious. I have my eye on that fabulous white plate!!!!

As always you plating looks wonderful!

Cristine said...

Your pasta looks delicious!

Big groups make me nervous. I am incredibly shy and can't think of anything to say!!!

Marie Rayner said...

I get nervous when I have to give talks or anything. I guess I am blessed in that way. I do get nervous when I am meeting people for the first time. like I will perhaps be a disappointment or something. Your pasta looks delicious!

Coby said...

I take nerves to the 'enth' degree - I'm a hermit and only go out when I have to, the whole world makes me nervous. Your skills for overcoming your nerves is so impressive:)

This pasta dish, well it doesn't worry me at all, I love it:):) But then you probably knew that;)

dharmagirl said...

The first day of class every semester...I just want to run away from the front of the room. Never have college students looked so frightening:)

Yumm--this dish looks like a perfect antidote to my winter blues.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

I bet you and the kids did great! But I would be nervous as well! I'm so nervous of public speaking, which people say it doens't make sense since I used to be an actress. But it's not the same thing I say! But I would do a small public speaking for that pasta!

Melissa said...

I'm really waiting for your orange sesame chicken recipe! Bring it on!

Karynn said...

If it makes you feel better, I can get up and sing and sing and sing and not even break a sweat. But making dinner has me in a hissy every single night.

Anonymous said...

This looks really good, and I love quick and easy dinner ideas. I just found your blog and I am loving it!!

Anonymous said...

I love walnut sauced pasta, but it is soo rich! My husband can't stomach it so I only get to make it once in a while. Thanks for reminding me it's time to indulge myself again soon!

Michal said...

erin, the bit about your sheet music crammed into your sweaty armpits made me laugh so hard--and miss you.

my hands always turn ICE cold when i am playing the piano in public. spin class makes me sweaty, but not from fear or embarrassment. i guess that's just not one of my symptoms. but i do blush at the drop of a hat (as you know.)

Maris said...

This looks so rich and creamy - I don't know that I've ever tried walnuts in pasta!

yanmaneee said...

air max 270
fila disruptor
goyard tote
off white nike
nike shoes
air jordan
air max 95