Walnut Sauce –
Let’s put our “regional Italian cooking “ hats on and speed off to yet another extraordinary, yet sometimes neglected, region of Italy – Liguria! This region is often missed in the great attention given to Tuscany and Northern Italy etc. It is located on the northwest coast of Italy, with the port of Genoa, among the cities well known, and also is the city credited for ravioli. Of course, the fish and coastal dishes are big in this area and, in addition, this region gave birth to pesto! However, one of the signature dishes of Liguria is definitely a standout – a heavenly and creamy sauce made of walnuts – SALSA DI NOCI.
In Liguria, this sauce is most often served with pansotti, a triangular shaped ravioli. This dish originated in a small town called “San Martino di Noceto”. Noceto refers to walnut groves. The pansotti are traditionally filled with herbs and native greens which are not easily found in the US where pansotti are usually filled with cheese and spinach or some other market green. Here in our photo, you see the walnut sauce served with pasta fresca or fresh pasta in the form of a spaghetti.
The sauce is so rich and wonderful that it does not need much embellishment, when serving, beyond plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The walnuts and ricotta come together to form a sauce that is simple yet satisfying and lightly sweet. It is simply a glorious sauce.
Unfortunately, the color of the sauce along with the pasta lacks contrast and does not make for a dramatic photograph. However, the drama is all in the flavor of this elegant sauce. It is beautiful beyond words, and the Ligurians rightfully claim it as their signature dish and one so worthy.
SALSA DI NOCI
Makes: enough sauce for over a pound of ravioli or dried or fresh pasta
Prep: about 20 minutes
1 lb. pasta or ravioli cooked
1/2 lb. Walnuts
1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (pignoli)
1 Clove Fresh Garlic
3 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped
1/2 Tsp. Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Whole Milk Ricotta
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tbsp. Butter
3 Tbsp. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
About a cup of pasta water (water in which you have cooked your pasta)
Extra Grated Parmigiano for serving
Fresh Parsley for garnish
Place in the bowl of your food processor: the walnuts, pine nuts, garlic, parsley and Salt.
Process until these ingredients turn into a paste. This takes just a few minutes.
Add the ricotta and milk, processing to combine.
Add the olive oil in a stream as the processor is running. The results will be very thick.
Melt the butter in a pan and then add the thick contents of the food processor. Stir into the butter along with the 3 Tbsp.of Parmigiano while heating through.
Add the pasta water and stir in. Add more or less of the water according to your taste. The water will thin the thick sauce.
Taste for seasoning, and add more salt as desired.
Serve with extra grated cheese.
This SALSA DI NOCI is so rich that I like to pair it with a light red wine instead of the expected white. It is most often served with a white wine of the Ligurian region called Pigato. However, for me, a light red like Dolcetto seems to stand up well with the depth of this sauce without dominating it.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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