Make Walnut Sauce at Home: The Authentic Recipe

Walnut sauce is a traditional dressing of Ligurian cuisine, in particular of the Genoa area.

Like the famous pesto alla Genovese, Ligurian walnut sauce is a richly flavored condiment that you can use in a variety of ways: to season stuffed pasta, such as traditional ravioli (called “pansotti” in Genoese dialect), trofie or linguine. Or as a tasty ingredient for bruschetta and tartine. Or to serve with meats.

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It’s a sauce made from walnuts, pine nuts, bread, grated cheese, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It’s a no cooking preparation. Simply heat the milk to soften the bread and then blend it in a blender or mortar according to Ligurian ancient tradition.

It’s not necessary to heat Walnut Sauce at the time of use. If you use it to dress pasta, soften it with a little of the pasta cooking water; if you use it plain on bruschetta or to stuff sandwiches, just take it out of the refrigerator a little earlier and soften it by mixing it at room temperature.

Find out how to make walnut sauce by following my simple step-by-step recipe.

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  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Cook Time: 0 Min
  • Servings: 4-6

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Kitchen Tools and Equipment

Traditionally, the authentic walnut sauce recipe is prepared with a marble mortar and pestle.

This is quite time-consuming and not really necessary for the success of the sauce. So in this recipe I’ll use an Electric Food Processor and in a few minutes you will have a really delicious walnut sauce.

IMPORTANT TIP: However, it’s necessary to follow an important expedient when using the electric chopper. You must use the robot at medium speed and intermittent pulses. In fact, it’s essential that the walnuts do not overheat by releasing their oil excessively.

It doesn’t matter if you take a few minutes longer, but you should blend slowly and several times after adding the nuts to the other ingredients, as we shall see.

How to Make Authentic Italian Walnut Sauce Recipe: Instructions

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Step 1) – To make the walnut sauce, start with the bread. Remove the outer crust and put it in a bowl with warm milk to soften it. In the meantime, if you bought shelled walnuts, you are good. Otherwise, you will need to remove the kernels from the shells.

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Step 2) – Now you need to remove the skin from the walnuts. To do this, blanch them in plenty of water for a few minutes. Then drain them and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel. Finally, rub them between your fingers to remove as much of the skin as possible.

YOU CAN SKIP THIS STEP: This is the more tedious part of the preparation because it takes a few extra minutes. If you prefer a more rustic, less refined result, you can skip this step. Using white walnuts will give you a lighter, more delicate sauce. If you use shelled walnuts, the sauce will be more rustic, dark and gritty.

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Step 3) – Put the walnuts in a food processor. Squeeze the bread between your hands to remove any excess milk.

Blend all the Ingredients

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Step 4) – Add the squeezed bread and grated Parmigiano. Process for about one minute on medium speed, blending every 5-6 seconds. This is to prevent the nuts from overheating. Then add the pine nuts.

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Step 5) – Finally add the garlic and the extra virgin olive oil. Blend all the ingredients for a few more moments, still pulsing to avoid overheating the sauce.

You will need to continue blending until you have a well-mixed, fairly smooth cream. Decide if you like your sauce coarser or more velvety and smooth. Adjust the blending time to your liking.

Finally, when you have reached the desired consistency of the walnut sauce, adjust the salt to taste.

Your Walnut Sauce is ready! You can use it to season many dishes, from pasta to main courses, salads and appetizers.

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You can store the walnut sauce in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

You can freeze it and use it up within a month.

Walnut Sauce Recipe: Variations and Tips

  • MARJORAM: You can flavor the walnut sauce with fresh or dried marjoram. In Liguria, They often use Maggiorana to flavor vegetable pies and stuffed vegetables.
  • ROASTED WALNUTS: To have a sauce with a more intense and aromatic taste, you can roast the walnuts and pine nuts in a pan before mixing them.
  • BREADCRUMBS: Another possible variation is to make this sauce without the soaked bread, using spoonfuls of very fine breadcrumbs instead. The end result will still be excellent, with a very velvety consistency.
  • GARLIC: Both Genovese pesto and walnut sauce are garlicky sauces. More or less, depending on your taste, the garlic flavor is a characteristic part of the recipe. Of course, if you do not like the taste of garlic but still want to make a walnut sauce, you can leave it out. You may want to add some nutmeg and black pepper instead of garlic to give the sauce an extra kick. On the other hand, if you like the flavor of garlic but have trouble digesting it raw, you can leave a few peeled cloves in the walnut sauce for a few hours and remove them when you serve the sauce.
  • VEGETABLE MILK: If you prefer not to use milk, you can always replace it with a vegetable milk. Soy or oat milk and extra virgin olive oil will give the right consistency to the cream, which will be delicious. This variation is suitable for those who want to avoid animal products, without giving up the good taste of this Ligurian recipe.

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Walnut Sauce with “Prescinseua”

As we have seen, cream and butter are not present in the authentic walnut sauce recipe. Nevertheless, many people use them, making the recipe very heavy and unnecessarily high in fat and calories.

However, in many ancient cookbooks, and even today in some areas of Genoa, a very special ingredient appears to give more creaminess: Prescinseua.

Prescinseua is a full-fat milk curd typical of Genoa. It has a consistency similar to soft ricotta, but with a more acidic, yogurt-like taste.

La Prescinseua is widely used in recipes in and around Genoa. Especially in fillings and vegetable pies.

Since it is an ingredient linked to the area and rarely found elsewhere, if you want more creaminess, you can replace it with a spoonful of either ricotta or thick yogurt like Greek yogurt.

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How to Serve Walnut Sauce

  • PANSOTTI: Walnut sauce, in Ligurian tradition, is inextricably linked to pansotti (Panciotti in Ligurian dialect, from it. pancia=belly, meaning with a lot of filling). Pansotti Liguri are fresh filled pasta called “di magro” (with a meatless filling), made with local vegetables such as borage and cheese. These ravioli are almost always served with walnut sauce. Pansotti are generally shaped like tortellini, but larger, triangular or half-moon shaped.
  • CORZETTI: In Liguria, walnut sauce is also used to season corzetti (or croxetti) in the Levante region. This is a shape of pasta that resembles a coin, small discs made in a mold with raised designs on both sides.
  • TROFIE: Trofie with walnut sauce are also a traditional dish. Very special are the chestnut flour trofie with walnut sauce.
  • FUSILLI: Of course, you can use whatever shape of pasta you prefer. Fusilli are very suitable because their shape allows them to be soaked in walnut sauce.
  • TRENETTE: Linguine or trenette also go well with walnut sauce.
  • BRUSCHETTA: You can use walnut sauce in many other recipes, not only as a pasta sauce. For example, you can use it as a sauce for sandwiches, bruschetta, and canapés. Or to dip crudités or even to accompany a cheese tray.
  • MEATS: Walnut sauce is also a great accompaniment to roast meats, especially pork (read: Pork Tenderloin with Walnut Sauce).

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Origins of Walnut Sauce

We find the first historical mentions of a walnut-based sauce in the 1300s. But it is only around 1500 that we find written documents that mention a sauce with walnuts and garlic to season “lazagne” and also to accompany boiled and roasted meats.

As for its origin, it’s believed that walnuts arrived in Italy from Persia via the Balkans a thousand years ago, and it’s in Persian cuisine that similar sauces can be found.

In Persia there is a very similar sauce used especially with sheep and poultry meat.

Some speculate that walnut sauce came to Genoa from Persia via Genoese sailors.

However, given the abundance of walnut trees in Liguria and the proverbial wisdom of Ligurian women in using what was available, it’s not far-fetched to think that this is an indigenous recipe.

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