The real Italian Riviera walnut sauce

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UPDATED – Here my recipe of the traditional Ligurian walnut sauce and some ideas on how to use walnut sauce.

This morning I was strolling with my son in the historic center of Genoa near the old port area – its very heart and soul. I had a stop at one of my favorite old little shops, Fratelli Armanino, specialized in dried fuits and bought a lot of walnuts. So, on the way back home with my tiny, very very very precious bag, I decided to use walnuts for an healthy, energetic, vegetarian savory course of the Genoa culinary tradition: pasta with walnut sauce.

In Genoa, walnut sauce is typically used to season pansotti (a traditional kind of ravioli filled with spontaneous herbs), but actually it is a sauce very good with any kind of pasta.There are different recipes but all the traditional one, all, do not require milk cream. So, be careful not to be fooled by stingy restaurants and canned sauces!

Try out the recipe of walnut sauce here below and you will be surprised at the soft density you can obtain just emulsifying walnuts with lukewarm water and a couple of spoons of extra virgin olive oil!

You can prepare it with the mixer, when the pasta is boiling. It takes a couple of minutes. Or you can prepare it as tradition rules with marble mortar and pestle, far cooler!

Some traditional recipe suggests to remove the outer rind of the walnuts after having immersed them into boiling water for few seconds. I do not remove the rind because I like a more rustic consistency in the sauce and I believe that also the rind contributes to give a characteristic flavor to the sauce (and yes, I confess, it also makes the recipe easier and quicker).

all photo above: Gaia Borzicchi
How to use walnut sauce?

First you can use walnut sauce for ravioli pasta. Indeed in Liguria the loyal espouse to this sauce are Pansoti, the traditional ravioli filled with a bouquet of wild herbs called prebuggiun .

pansoti recipe

You can also use Ligurian walnut sauce for fresh pasta. For example I use walnut sauce to season corzetti, the medieval Italian Riviera pasta with a round shape and a drawing embossed on them. Or some chestnut trofie, always traditional of the backcountry of Genoa.

Then you can use walnut sauce for dry pasta. I love using it for seasoning whole spelt linguine, for example. I get a pleasant contrast white and brown between pasta and sauce and, most important, a healthy complete meal full of protein, good fats (omega -3 and omega -6) and minerals!


  • In the Italian Riviera there is another very famous sauce, the Genoa basil pesto made in the mortar. If you want to try my recipe here the link for my Complete Guide to Pesto Sauce
  • Valter Longo, one of the most influencing gerontologist and dietician of these years, author of the Longevity diet, includes Onions in walnut sauce among the best recipes for longevity.


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Ciao! I’m Enrica

a home cook, food researcher and experience curator born and bred in Liguria.
I study, tell, cook, share and teach Ligurian cuisine and the culture surrounding it.
Here we celebrate Liguria’s gastronomic diversity and richness through its recipes, producers, traditions and shops.

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