Walnut sauce is a lesser-known Italian sauce for pasta that's easy to make and surprisingly creamy and flavorful given the humble ingredients. A great way to change up pasta night!
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Every now and then I get a little nostalgic for the farmers' market that was near where we used to live in London. It's not that it was big, but I absolutely loved some of the vendors.
From the apple stall that had the best single-variety apple juices, to the butcher who sold cuts just from his own herd and what he hunted that was always amazing quality, and not forgetting the various cheese producers.
Then there were the stalls that came less frequently that we always wanted to catch, like the pesto stall.
There was a couple from Italy who made and jarred a range of wonderful pestos who we chatted to a number of times. While these days I generally make my own arugula pesto and others, they made some of the few I'd happily pay for as they were that good.
One they had that was new to me was walnut pesto or walnut sauce, but it's one that has stuck with me. I decided it was about time to make some myself, so I looked at a few recipes including this one for guidance.
Where is walnut sauce from?
Walnut sauce - "salsa di noci" - is from the Genoa area, Liguria, also known as the Italian Riviera. It's actually where my husband studied for a month so he knew of the sauce. But he is probably one of the few. Somehow it's not that well known which is a shame as it has a lovely flavor and is easy to make.
The sauce itself is relatively thick, but you can thin it out a little with some pasta water as you mix it into your cooked pasta.
You don't need many ingredients, but you want to make sure you use good ones. I used some of my delicious Pomora extra virgin olive oil. Its fantastic flavor goes so well with the savory nuttiness of the walnuts.
Making and using this sauce
This walnut sauce comes together so easily as all you do is soak some bread in milk, then blend it up with some walnuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan.
It becomes surprisingly creamy, despite only a tiny bit of milk and cheese. At this stage, it will be a little thick, like a pesto.
Then once you cook your pasta, mix in the sauce along with a little of the pasta cooking water. You'll be amazed at how smooth, creamy and flavorful it becomes.
We had it with some homemade pumpkin pasta and it was fantastic, but it would go with any pasta, gnocchi or a simple ravioli. In fact it's traditionally served with pansotti, a kind of herb ravioli.
Easy to make, simple ingredients but making such a tasty sauce, this walnut sauce is one you have to try.
Try these other pasta sauces:
- Pesto alla Trapanese (a Sicilian fresh tomato almond sauce)
- Creamy bacon sauce with spinach
- Butternut squash sauce
Plus get more Italian recipes in the archives.
Walnut sauce (salsa di noci)
- ⅓ oz bread (⅓oz/10g is approx ½ slice weight without tough crusts) ideally white
- ¼ cup milk
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- ½ clove garlic small - use less if it's large
- 1 tablespoon parmesan grated
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- some salt, pepper and pasta water (see below)
- Tear up the bread and put it into a small bowl. Pour over the milk and leave to soak while you measure out everything else.
- Put the walnuts, garlic, grated parmesan and olive oil into a small blender or food processor. Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread (but don't discard yet) and add it in as well. Blend them all together until well combined and smooth.
- Add a little of the reserved milk if needed to help make the sauce relatively smooth and not too thick. Add a little salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside until pasta is cooked.
- When your pasta is ready, don't discard all the pasta cooking water - keep some so you can add a little of the pasta water to thin down the sauce and help it become nice and creamy as you stir the sauce through the hot pasta.
Thanks to Pomora for sponsoring this post.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
See some other ideas for cooking and baking with nuts:
- Barberry Pistachio Saffron Rice by Food Lust People Love
- Canadian Pecan Butter Tarts by Tara's Multicultural Table
- Healthy Granola Cakes by Sneha's Recipes
- Pecan Chicken by Family Around The Table
- Pumpkin Nut Braid by Passion Kneaded
- Pumpkin-Nut Crumble Cake by Hardly A Goddess
- Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake by A Day in the Life on the Farm