What is walnut pesto?
This classic dish hails from Genoa, though it is scarcely available in other parts of Italy, let alone outside of lo stivale (meaning 'the boot', i.e. Southern Italy). While those not native to Genoa may refer to this sauce as pesto di noci, Genovese natives agree it is more aptly described as salsa di noci, sarsa de noxi in local Genovese. Our salsa di noci is the elegant, creamy product achieved when beautiful Sorrento walnuts are married with fragrant marjoram, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic and a drop of milk - the key to achieving salsa di noci’s remarkably velvety texture.
Walnut pesto recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Calories per serving: 545kcal
- 650g fresh pasta of your choice (we recommend trofie)
- 60g walnuts
- 50g pine nuts
- 100ml whole milk
- 3-4tbsp olive oil
- 30g Parmigiano Reggiano
- 20g stale bread crumbs
- 1tsp marjoram, dried
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt, to taste
Chefs tip - Should you wish to make your walnut pesto vegetarian, simply swap out the Parmigiano Reggiano for a rennet-free Italian hard cheese.
- Add pine nuts, olive oil, bread crumbs, Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, marjoram and salt to a mortaio (pestle and mortar in English), and grind until a rugged paste is achieved. When grinding, use a circular motion with the pestle while slowly rotating the mortar with your free hand. Doing so creates extra friction, helping to break everything down.
- Next, add the walnuts and grind until combined, employing the same circular motion technique as before. You should have a creamy yet slightly chunky consistency.
- Heat some of your milk in a pan, before adding your pesto mixture. We advise reserving some of your milk, in order to control the consistency of your sauce. Stir the mixture until well combined. Add as much milk as is necessary to loosen the pesto, ensuring a creamy yet textured sauce that coats every strand of your pasta.
- Boil your freshly prepared pasta of choice in generously salted water until al dente. Drain and toss your pasta in the pesto, ensuring every strand is well coated in the creamy sauce. Serve with a generous lashing of extra Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoy!
Be sure to follow along with Head Chef Roberta in the video below should you need any help.
Chef’s Tip: Whilst you can certainly save yourself a bit of time and elbow grease using a food processor, the results pale in comparison to those achieved by using a traditional pestle and mortar. Slow grinding in a non-porous receptacle, like in a marble or granite mortar, yields an emulsion that neither a food processor or blender can. It’s also easier to control the consistency of the pesto, which we enjoy with a rustic bite.
Which pasta should I serve with my walnut pesto?
We serve our salsa di noci with trofie, a pasta shape born in the Liguria region, not far from Genoa on the Western coast of Italy. In spite of their close proximity, trofie were not commonplace in Genoa until the mid-20th century. The word trofie is derived from the Ligurian word strufuggiâ, meaning “to rub”, reminiscent of the method in which the dough is prepared, ensuring its unique shape. To prepare your fresh trofie, simply follow the recipe documented in our top vegan pasta shapes article, which also guides you on achieving the distinctive shape of the pasta.
Walnut pesto wine pairing recommendation
This sauce brings plenty of deep, earthy flavour to any dish, so you want a wine that can counterbalance it. An Italian red with soft tannins and tempered acidity like Ciliegiolo would be a good start, but for an ideal match we’d hone in on a lesser-known variety from Maremma in Tuscany: Montauto Silio Ciliegiolo. It has the classic cherry notes on palate along with hints of violet and tobacco which will play along with, but most importantly, not overpower the taste of the walnuts.