Margarita's International Recipes


Trofie con salsa di noci alla Genovese

Pasta with Genovese-style Walnut Sauce

Pasta with Genovese-style Walnut Sauce

Liguria is famous for its pesto, and this walnut sauce has very similar ingredients. It's probably just as ancient. While originally this walnut sauce probably accompanied meats, it's been dressing pasta for centuries. It's most commonly served with pansotti, a Ligurian type of ravioli, often triangular in shape, and filled with cheese and herbs - but it also often accompanies other shapes of pasta, most commonly trofie. While originally made with a pesto and pestle, it now can be more easily done with a blender. It results in a sauce which has a very creamy consistency, but still offers some texture, while adding a lot of vegetarian protein to the dish.

While the dish was easy to make and I appreciated the texture, it was really quite tasteless. Perhaps fresh Ligurian walnuts make a difference here, though fresh walnuts are supposed to have an even subtler flavor than dried ones. All the flavor in this dish came from the cheese, so if you make it, make sure you get a good quality one and grate it yourself (I used the Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio from Trader Joe's, which is delicious).

All the recipes I saw for this sauce have you peel the walnuts. I tried, but it's very, very difficult. If I made it again, I wouldn't bother. You can find trofie at Trader Joe's as well, but I used gemelli pasta instead, as I had cooked it by mistake. The two shapes are similar so it shouldn't make a difference.


Pasta with Genovese-style Walnut Sauce


  • 2 cups shelled walnuts
  • 2 slices stale Italian bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 garlic clove, quartered
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • salt
  • 6 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 oz trofie pasta or similar
  • black pepper to taste
  • leaves from 10 marjoram sprigs


(Optional) Bring a pot of water to boil under medium-high heat. Add the walnuts and boil for 3-4 minutes. Drain and remove peel. Place walnuts in a blender or food processor.

Place Italian bread in a small bowl. Add the milk, let stand for a minute and then squeeze out the milk from the bread, reserving milk. Tear the bread into small pieces and add to the walnuts in the blender.

Add the garlic to the blender. Blend until you have a coarse paste. Add the pine nuts, 1/2 cup Reggiano cheese and a pinch of salt and blend in. Add the olive oil and reserved milk and blend into a smoother paste. Set aside while you prepare the pasta.

Bring a large bowl of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until ready.

While the pasta is cooking, transfer the walnut sauce to a non-stick saute pan or pot. Turn heat to medium and transfer a cup of water from the boiling pasta to the walnut sauce. Stir to incorporate. You might need to add more water until you have the right consistency. Add some more shredded cheese, black pepper and the marjoram sprigs. When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the walnut sauce. Stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with remaining cheese on the side.

Adapted from Jacqui's recipe at The Pasta Project

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