Creamy walnut sauce pasta

Walnut sauce is a delicious condiment for a simple yet elegant pasta dish. This walnut pasta sauce is made with cream and has a very delicate flavour and the perfect texture to coat your favourite pasta shape. This creamy pasta is that kind of midweek meal that can double as fantastic main course option when entertaining!

Any time I want to impress my guests or just treat myself to a good meal I’ll pull a recipe from the Italian tradition. More than often, Italian recipes are easier to make than it may seem. Walnut sauce pasta may look like the fanciest pasta dish ever. But in fact this pasta dish is actually pretty easy and only requires a bunch of ingredients.

Furthermore, pasta with walnut sauce takes as little as 30 minutes to make. The sauce comes together as the pasta cooks. So you can bring to your table a portion of this delightful pasta dish in less than a half hour. This pasta recipe is perfect on any midweek night. Nobody wants to spend more than 30 minutes making dinner. Call me biased but a plate of pasta will always be a fantastic meal option to me. Yes, I’m Italian.

Walnut sauce pasta with cream and parmesan.

What is walnut sauce

Walnut sauce is a pasta condiment from Liguria, northern Italy. Liguria is the region that gave us basil pesto, focaccia and farinata. Beautifully nestled between the Alps and the Mediterranean sea, Liguria is home to the Italian Riviera. Apart from the breathtaking landscape of mountain and sea, Liguria also boasts some of Italy’s finest olives and olive oils.

Walnut sauce is a recipe from the Ligurian tradition. The traditional recipe calls for crushing the walnuts with garlic, parmesan and bread soaked in milk. The concept is very similar to that of pesto, and the sauce can either be made with pestle and mortar (the traditional way) or in a food processor.

My creamy walnut sauce is a variation inspired by the traditional Ligurian recipe, but adapted to suit my preference. Instead of using bread soaked in milk I get the texture from cream. I also prefer to sub raw garlic with sautéed shallots for a more delicate flavour. Parmesan is only added at the end, once the sauce is mixed with pasta.

Pasta, walnuts, shallots, a spoonful of salt and a small bowl of cream on a wooden table.

The ingredients

This is what you will need to make creamy walnut sauce pasta:

  • Your pasta of choice – I tend to prefer short pasta shapes with this sauce.
  • Walnuts – they need to be shelled and preferably peeled – more on this below.
  • Shallot – sautéed onion is the foundation of 90% pasta sauces!
  • Butter – since we’re going full-creamy we’re using butter to sauté the onion.
  • Cream – any cooking cream of choice, I prefer one that has a 15% fat content.
  • Salt & pepper – to taste
  • Grated parmesan – it’s always a great finish.

For a detailed description of the method please refer to the recipe card below.

While this recipe can take as little as 30 minutes, I like to add one extra step to turn this simple pasta dish into restaurant food material. It’s a preliminary step that you can choose to omit. But if you have some extra prep time, for the best flavour and texture you should consider peeling the walnuts.

Peeling the walnuts will require a little bit of work, so budget in about one hour of extra time if you choose to proceed. This preliminary step can be done in advance. Store your peeled walnuts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Walnut sauce pasta topped with two sage leaves.

Why peel the walnuts

Walnut skins are slightly bitter, and by taking the skins away your walnut sauce will be more delicate in flavour. Furthermore peeling the walnuts will give you a smoother sauce. I’m all for a rustic feel, but sometimes you want that little fancier note. Traditional Ligurian walnut sauce calls for unpeeled walnuts. But this creamy walnut sauce is meant to be more delicate, so I think peeling the walnuts is really worth the effort.

What if I don’t peel the walnuts? No big deal! Walnuts are generally eaten with skins on, so most people are used to the slightly bitter taste they have. Walnut sauce with unpeeled walnuts is still a delicious pasta sauce. Peeled walnuts yield a smooth creamy sauce. If you don’t peel the walnuts your sauce will have a light speckle caused by the walnut skin bits.

Peeled and unpeeled walnuts.
Unpeeled walnuts (left) and peeled walnuts (right).

How to do it

The easiest way to peel the walnuts is by quickly simmering them in boiling water. Add the walnuts to a small pot of boiling water and simmer for a couple of minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water to cool and place on a kitchen towel.

Remove the skins by gently pulling them with your fingers. I find it easier by breaking the walnuts in pieces. That’s not an issue in this recipe, as we will be blending them later anyway. Wet skins are easiest to remove. Don’t let the walnuts dry completely, or the skins will be harder to remove. If it happens, simmer for a couple of minutes again, drain and continue from where you had left.

Walnut sauce pasta served in a gray bowl.

Tips for the best pasta with walnut sauce

  • Cook the pasta al dente. For an authentic Italian flair you want to cook your pasta following the suggested cooking time on the package.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce making sure all the pasta gets nicely coated in the sauce. I do not recommend just topping your cooked pasta with this sauce. Mix it well for maximum flavour.
  • Top your walnut pasta with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, freshly cracked black pepper or even chopped walnuts. For decoration I have topped mine with 2 fresh sage leaves.
  • I prefer short pasta shapes for this walnut sauce, like fusilli/eliche or even mezze maniche. If you like long pasta I would recommend tagliatelle. Even better if homemade, you can use my fresh egg pasta recipe.

Did you ever have walnut sauce with pasta? If you try my recipe let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you! If you’re planning on making this recipe later, don’t forget to pin it:

Walnut sauce pasta with cream is a delicious main course ready in less than 30 minutes.Creamy and delicate, this walnut pasta sauce is inspired by a traditional Italian rcipe but adapted to have a more delicate flavour and the creamiest texture.

Originally published November 2017, last updated January 2021.

 

Walnut sauce pasta with cream and parmesan.
5 from 6 votes
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Creamy walnut sauce pasta

Pasta with walnut sauce is a delicious pasta dish that is creamy, flavourful and authentic. Walnut sauce pasta is a dish from northern Italy. Often paired with cheese, this is a simple creamy version.

Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta sauce, walnut pasta, walnut sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
To prep the walnuts 1 hour
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 563 kcal
Author Eva | Electric Blue Food

Ingredients

  • 500 g pasta of choice
  • 60 g walnuts peeled for best results
  • 1 shallot
  • 240 ml cream
  • 20 g butter
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp parmesan grated

Instructions

  1. To peel the walnuts. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add the walnuts and simmer for a couple of minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and place on a kitchen towel. Remove the skins by gently pulling them with your fingers. This procedure adds about one extra hour to the recipe and can be done in advance. If doing this in advance, store the peeled walnuts in an airtight container in the fridge.

  2. Prepare the pasta. Set a pot of water on medium-high heat. When it boils, add salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package instructions. I recommend to stick to the suggested cooking time for a perfect Italian al dente texture.

  3. Prepare the sauce. Melt half of the butter in a pan on medium heat. Mince the shallot and add it to the butter. Sauté until soft, 2 minutes.

  4. Add the walnuts, salt, pepper and the rest of the butter. Sauté 1 minute, let the butter melt. Next pour in the cream. Simmer the sauce on medium heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

  5. Transfer the sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can blend it with a hand blender.

  6. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and put it back into the cooking pan. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and toss. Divide pasta between serving bowls and top with grated parmesan.

Recipe Notes

This sauce is ready to use immediately. If you want to use it later, store it refrigerated for up to a week. Be aware that the sauce will thicken as it cools.

The nutritional information provided is only an estimate based on a suggested serving size.

Nutrition Facts
Creamy walnut sauce pasta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 563 Calories from Fat 351
% Daily Value*
Fat 39g60%
Saturated Fat 18g113%
Cholesterol 96mg32%
Sodium 335mg15%
Potassium 187mg5%
Carbohydrates 44g15%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 13g26%
Vitamin A 1046IU21%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 122mg12%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. Christina November 27, 2017 at 23:54

    oh I’ve never seen a recipe where I had to peel the walnuts 😀 now I kinda wanna try it to see for myself if it’s worth the effort 😀

    Reply
    1. Eva November 29, 2017 at 20:19

      This is maximum level pickiness, but in my opinion it is well worth it! Except while you’re at it and you realise you’bve just spent one hour peeling walnuts, then you realize it was a lot of time for such a small quantity and why did you even bother 😀

      Reply
  2. Ingrid January 15, 2020 at 03:00

    Is this on the sweeter side? I’ve been trying to locate a sweet walnut sauce for goat cheese ravioli.

    Reply
    1. Eva February 3, 2020 at 20:23

      Definitely can be, I usually add loads of parmigian to my pasta and it never comes through as too salty so the sauce definitely has a sweeter tone to it. I would totally try it with goat cheese ravioli!

      Reply
  3. David Scott Allen January 23, 2021 at 17:48

    This is definitely one of our favorite dishes from our time in Liguria and Tuscany. As I am unable to eat garlic, your version with shallots works perfectly for us. I will add this to this weeks menu!

    Reply
    1. Eva January 24, 2021 at 19:24

      That is really cool! I’m always happy when a recipe that has been tweaked can accommodate dietary restrictions that make the original recipe impossible to enjoy! Hope you like it and it will remind you of your times in Italy.

      Reply
  4. Claudia Lamascolo January 25, 2021 at 14:41

    5 stars
    This is my husband favorite cream sauce and I make it often its delicioius and very easy too! Thanks

    Reply
    1. Eva January 27, 2021 at 15:53

      How lovely to hear! Thank you Claudia!

      Reply
  5. Dannii January 25, 2021 at 15:13

    5 stars
    I never would have thought to make a creamy sauce out of walnuts. This sounds delicious.

    Reply
    1. Eva January 27, 2021 at 15:53

      Thanks, Dannii! Hope you will find the time to make it soon.

      Reply
  6. Gina January 25, 2021 at 15:13

    5 stars
    Love this recipe! The shallots bring such a nice subtle flavor and the walnuts really make a lovely hearty and creamy sauce that’s just so good!

    Reply
    1. Eva January 27, 2021 at 15:54

      Hi Gina! Thank you, I alsothink the shallots a a true game changer.

      Reply
  7. Jessie January 25, 2021 at 16:22

    5 stars
    I can say that I have never had walnut sauce before but this sounds good. I will be trying this soon.

    Reply
    1. Eva January 27, 2021 at 15:54

      Thank you Jessie. I hop you will enjoy it when you make it.

      Reply
  8. Tania Pilcher | Fit Foodie Nutter January 25, 2021 at 16:31

    5 stars
    I love walnuts, so this pasta worked like an absolute treat! Just one confession – I used peeled walnuts to save time. I hope I’m forgiven:) x

    Reply
    1. Eva January 27, 2021 at 15:55

      Hi Tania. Oh yes you are, I’m guilty of not peeling the walnuts myself, often. I like to say the rustic texture was done on purpose 🙂

      Reply
  9. David Scott Allen February 20, 2021 at 17:38

    5 stars
    We loved this, Eva – the simplicity of the recipe was exactly what we remember from our visits to Tuscany! Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

    Reply

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