This is an excerpt on Tocco di Noci ('touch of walnuts') from The Painter, the Cook and the Art of Cucina by Anna del Conte (I’ve also encountered other versions where butter is included, or herbs such as parsley – it's so easy to adapt to your own taste):
Fred Plotkin writes in his excellent book Recipes from Paradise that tocco di noci is the traditional dressing for pansoti, the herb-filled pasta of Liguria. ‘But,’ he continiues, ‘the walnut sauce is also very good with gnocchi, tortellini or even with boiled meats such as boiled pork or veal.’ And I couldn’t agree more, adding poached chicken to the list.
Tocco di Noci
Makes about 225ml
200g/7oz shelled walnuts
25g/1oz unflavoured breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
30g/1oz finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch minced fresh marjoram
175ml/6fl oz prescinseua (Ligurian curd cheese) or 150g/5fl oz fresh ricotta diluted with 2 tbsp tepid water
60ml/2.5fl oz extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to taste
sea salt (optional)
Place the walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic and salt in a mortar and pound with a pestle to form a paste. Alternatively, place these ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until they form a paste. Transfer to a bowl if you are not using a pestle and mortar. Add the Parmesan and marjoram, then the prescinseua or diluted ricotta. Finally, add the olive oil to the mixture, a little at a time, stirring to combine the ingredients. Serve on hot pasta.