Scrumptious Walnut Sauce for Pasta and More

Our current selection for Cook the Books Club is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi.
What a delicious co-mingling of romance, tempting food and place - Venice, of course!  My own stay in La Serenissima a few years ago was all too short.

I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true.  And, so descriptive, so well written.  The woman is a poet.

An American food writer and chef, Marlena is traveling in Italy with two friends when she meets "The Stranger", a Venetian Peter Sellers look-alike, whose shy pursuit ends up enchanting her.

Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside.  Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways.  Which is actually a good thing.  A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished.  Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.

There was much to inspire our cooking, from pastries to Wild Mushrooms Braised in Late-Harvest Wine.  Fabulous food she encounters in Venice, dishes created with local produce, and meals dreamt up and served with passion and imagination.  Hard to choose.  However, in the end it was the Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce that grabbed me.

I'd never made a nut sauce for pasta and was intrigued by the idea.  Next time I may sauté shitake mushrooms in butter to add in, or ..... but you could go on and on.   And there are many stand alone vegetables that would be greatly enhanced by a dollop of that wonderful concoction.  Perhaps a cauliflower?

First, lightly roast your walnuts

THE SAUCE (makes about 2 cups)
Yield: 4 servings as a main course.

18 oz. shelled walnuts, lightly roasted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
several gratings of nutmeg
sea salt and just-cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup late-harvest white wine such as Vin Santo or Moscato

In the work bowl of a food processor or blender fitted with a steel blade, pulse the walnuts until they are the texture of very coarse meal (do not grind them too finely - more texture is better than less). Add the spices, salt and pepper, and pulse two or three more times to combine; with the machine running, pour in a mixture of the oil, cream and wine, and process only until the paste is emulsified.  Taste and correct the sauce for salt and spices. 

Toss with just-cooked pasta and serve.

This will remain a standard in my kitchen, along with pesto for pasta.  Just scrumptious!  As was the novel, and I've got her next on order.


Rachel said...

I enjoyed this book too. I wouldn't be enchanted by a Peter Sellers lookalike myself (more of a Kato fancier) but I liked her story and her daring. A lovely post for Cook the Books!

Debra Eliotseats said...

Claudia----just added you to the round up. Didn't see your comment until just now. So sorry, but you're in the round up as of five minutes ago! :)

Lovely post and glad you enjoyed the book.

Camilla M. Mann said...

This looks fabulous! Thanks for cooking with Cook the Books

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I am really going to have to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book.

Deb in Hawaii said...

This recipe was a winner--it was fun to see three different takes on it. I love your idea of adding the shiitake mushrooms to it--Yum! ;-)

Simona Carini said...

Glad the book made you try the walnut sauce. There are various versions in Italy. Not too long ago, I posted a recipe for broccoli with walnut and miso sauce, so I definitely support your idea of pairing walnut sauce with vegetables.