This pasta was very loosely inspired by a pistachio pasta that I ate in Umbria, Italy. By blending nuts into the sauce, it adds a creamy texture and toasty flavor that pairs so well with the salty, nutty parmesan to create a delicious pasta sauce. Cauliflower and mushrooms get baked with thyme until they’re perfectly charred and crispy to add veggies and more flavor to the pasta. 

Ingredient highlight

Cauliflower! Is a great source of vitamin K and vitamin C. Like all of it’s cruciferous family members, cauliflower contains compounds, called glucosinolates, that may help prevent cancer.

The pistachio pasta that inspired this recipe! It also had guanciale and it was made with thick, chewy local Umbrichelli noodles.

Servings 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes


  • 4 cups finely chopped cauliflower (from a 1.5 lb head*)
  • 8 oz mushrooms, stems removed, sliced ¼”-thick (about 2 heaping cups)*
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 12 oz pasta of choice
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan + more for topping
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • *Finely chopping the cauliflower will create small crispy cauliflower crumbles that mix really well into the pasta. 
  • **Any variety of mushrooms can be used.
  • Tip! ~ If you run out of pasta water or forget to save some, just use hot or boiling water instead.


  • Preheat oven to 450F or 425F convection. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Add cauliflower, mushrooms, 2 tablespoons oil, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt and toss to coat well. Spread out into an even layer and bake for 25 minutes or until cauliflower is crispy and charred and mushrooms are golden.
  • Fill a large pot with water (about 3 quarts) and bring to a boil over high heat. Salt the pasta water (about 1 tablespoon), then add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain and transfer back to the pot.
  • Meanwhile, in a high-speed blender, add the walnuts and pulse to finely chop. Transfer about ¼ cup of the walnuts to a bowl to use for topping later.
  • In the blender with the walnuts, add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, cheese, pepper, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and about ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Blend on high until smooth. Add more pasta water, if needed to create a smooth sauce.
  • Transfer the veggies to the pot with the pasta. Pour the sauce over top, scraping out every last bit, and stir to coat the noodles. If it’s looking dry, add more pasta water and stir again (the pasta will soak up the sauce as it sits – best to eat this right away!).
  • Serve topped with the reserved walnuts, parm, and pepper.

Items you can prep ahead (optional)

  • Toast 1 cup walnuts
  • Finely chop 4 cups cauliflower
  • De-stem and thinly slice 8 oz mushrooms
  • Roast the veggies
  • Finely grate ½ cup parmesan + more for topping


  • To make vegan, substitute the parmesan with 1-2 tablespoons of miso paste.
  • To make nut-free, substitute the walnuts by using just ½ cup of toasted sunflower seeds for the sauce (skip reserving the ¼ cup and just top with more seeds). 
  • Skip the mushrooms and just use 2 more cups of cauliflower.


  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days

Leftovers + Repurposing:

  • Warm up leftovers in the microwave until just warmed through. Add a splash of hot water and mix it into the noodles to moisten them. Top with parm, nuts, and pepper. A squeeze of lemon on top and/or some fresh chopped parsley would brighten it up nicely. 
  • Top with a fried egg!
  • Serve with cooked chicken or sausage on top.

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