Liguria’s culinary tradition boasts several ancient sauces, all made with mortar and pestle and characterized by the presence of garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. All of these sauces originated between 1200 and 1800.
The most famous one is probably basil pesto, but another is walnut sauce, an ideal match for pansoti, a type of filled pasta traditional to Liguria, or trofie, another famous pasta shape from the same region.
What is Walnut Sauce?
Originally walnut sauce was called agliata bianca, agliata with walnuts, or savore di noci e aglio.
Its origins are rooted in the trade of the Genoese with the East. In fact, in Persia and the Balkans, there is a similar version used to season boiled meats.
Even the tendency to add prescinseua cheese (but today also ricotta) to these sauces made of oil nuts has the same origin. The taste of prescinseua recalls the yogurt that characterizes the typical sauces of the Black Sea, where the Genoese had their businesses.
In a bowl, cover the bread with milk. When it’s completely soaked, remove the bread and squeeze it with your hands to remove the excess milk.
In the mortar, add the garlic, pine nuts, and a little coarse sea salt. Start crushing the ingredients with the pestle. You will have to make circular and decisive movements, continuing to grind until the pine nuts are crushed.
Next add the walnuts. You can choose whether to blanch the walnuts to remove the film and then let them dry, or use them directly. Continue to grind for two or three minutes until you get a homogeneous paste.
Now add the extra-virgin olive oil, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the drained breadcrumbs, and the chopped marjoram leaves; mix well with a spoon until the ingredients form a creamy sauce.
Preparation with a blender
Place the bread in a bowl and cover it with milk. Once it’s completely soaked, remove the bread and squeeze it to remove the excess milk.
Add the bread to the blender along with the nuts, garlic, marjoram, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a pinch or two of salt. Blend until a smooth paste forms.
Add the olive oil and continue blending to obtain a thick, creamy sauce.
Use walnut sauce on any kind of pasta—dry, handmade, ravioli, pansotti, etc. Always save a cup of the pasta cooking water and use 4-5 tablespoons to thin the sauce, adding more if necessary to obtain the desired consistency.