Simple, tasty, vegetarian, and good for you, this recipe for sugo di noci, walnut sauce, is a traditional one in the Tuscan province of Arezzo. It can also be made easily in under twenty minutes. What are you waiting for?
Walnuts, which grow in abundance in Tuscany, are used in all sorts of recipes from liqueurs (nocino) to toppings for crostini.
The texture and appearance of this sauce is rather like ragù (bolognese sauce) and I think that this dish started as part of cucina povera (poor cooking) where more expensive dishes would be simulated with less expensive ingredients. In this case, as in many Tuscan dishes, the sauce is also bulked out with stale bread which has been grated into breadcrumbs.
Sugo di noci (walnut sauce) is vegetarian if you are a vegetarian that eats fish. If not, then I would replace the anchovies with a large tablespoon of chopped, salted capers which would give a similar saltiness and also render the sauce vegan (for the vegetarian-vegan version don’t sprinkle with parmigiano reggiano either).
And then there are the health benefits. Walnuts are supposed to be one of the healthiest nuts on the planet. They have been credited with everything from helping to fight cancer and diabetes, to aiding with health loss and even enhancing your mood. That’s write: eat walnuts, be happy!
Unusually, you can serve this sauce with whichever pasta you feel like eating. I tend to serve it (as in the pictures) with homemade tagliatelle, which have recently been rendered easier by the arrival in my kitchen of a new machine—more about that in a later post. If you are making the vegan version, again cut the tagliatelle (they contain eggs) and use any kind of dried pasta: rigatoni would be my dried pasta of choice here.
As I said in the introduction, you can prepare this dish in under 20 minutes (depending on how fast you chop) and so is a perfect weeknight meal. All the ingredients can be found in your store cupboard although I would recommend grating your own breadcrumbs rather than using commercial ones as it gives a better texture.
8 tablespoons olive oil
80g (3 ounces) walnut kernels, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
60g (4 tablespoons) breadcrumbs
4 litres (8 1/2 pints) water, salted
380 g (13 ounces) tagliatelle
olive oil for drizzling
parmigiano reggiano, grated
- Heat the oil in a large pan or skillet.
- Gently fry the garlic and the anchovy fillets for about 5 minutes until the garlic begins to brown and the fillets dissolve.
- Add the walnut kernels and continue to cook for a further two minutes.
- Add the breadcrumbs, and cook for about a minute.
- Bring the water to the boil and cook the tagliatelle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the skillet with a little of the cooking water.
- Mix the sauce through the pasta thoroughly. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil if necessary.
- Serve, topped with finely chopped parsley, black pepper, and parmigiano reggiano to taste.
What are your favourite nuts and nut dishes?