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Some spaghetti with walnut sauce in a blu bowl.

I’ve been thinking of posting this amazing walnut sauce recipe for ages. It makes a delish storecupboard pasta sauce, it comes together in minutes and requires minimal ingredients.

All you have to do is blending a generous handful of walnuts with a splash of olive oil, parmesan, garlic, and a slice of bread soaked in milk. It’s that easy and you’ll be amazed how this creamy and flavorsome sauce will coat your pasta!

Traditionally made in a mortar and pestle, this simple Italian recipe comes from the Liguria region of Italy. It’s basically a walnut pesto, as rustic and delicious as its most-known cousin, the basil pesto.

And we love it, it’s rich and tasty without being overloaded with oil or cream. Plus, you’ll get plenty of flavor and nutrients from the amazing walnuts and it’s ready in a flash. What’s not to love?

What ingredients you need

  • Walnuts
  • A slice of bread
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Milk
  • Salt & pepper

Walnuts, bread, cheese, garlic, olive oil in a food processor bowl.

How to make it

While your pasta is cooking, make the sauce…

  • Place all the ingredients in a small food processor
  • Add about 4-5 Tbsp of milk or pasta cooking water
  • Blend into a pesto-like consistency
  • Adjust the seasoning according to your taste

A wooden spoon full of walnut sauce and a food processor bowl on the background.

  • Drain pasta while it’s still “al dente”
  • Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water
  • Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the walnut sauce
  • Add some of the reserved cooking water, as much as needed to thin out
  • Toss to evenly coat and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper!

Walnut sauce with spaghetti in a blue bowl. A fork and some walnuts on the background.

No time to cook? Rustle up a delicious pasta with this walnut pesto and save time and money.
Plus, the healthy and nutritious walnuts are convenient, inexpensive and packed with flavor. This scrumptious Italian pasta sauce costs less than $2.50 and it’s enough for 3 servings of pasta!


Not only are the walnuts delicious, but they’re packed with vitamins, mineral and precious antioxidants and omega-3 fats. This rich nutrient profile offers potential benefits for both brain health and heart functions.


Pasta is definitely part of a healthy diet, as long as it’s eaten in moderation.
We love whole-grain pasta, it contains more natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white pasta. Plus, whole-grain pasta makes you feel fuller longer. If you haven’t tried it, it’s time to give it a go : )

A fork is lifting some spaghetti with walnut sauce served in a blue bowl.


If you love a creamier texture use milk instead of pasta cooking water, it will taste delicious. To add extra richness to the overall flavor, you can also add a splash of cream instead of milk.


Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.


If you try this walnut sauce recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram.
I would love to hear from you!

Walnut sauce pasta
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Walnut sauce with pasta

This quick and delish walnut sauce is perfect for your pasta: it's light, simple, delicious, it comes together in minutes and requires minimal ingredients!
Prep Time10 minutes
Course: Condiment, pasta, Sauce
Cuisine: Italian, vegetarian
Keyword: Walnut sauce
Servings: 3
Calories: 604kcal
Author: Katia
Cost: $ 2.5


  • 3/4 cup (3oz/80 grams) walnuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) Parmesan, grated or cut into pieces
  • 1 (1oz/25 grams) small slice of bread without crust, milk-soaked and drained
  • 5 Tbsp (75ml) milk, to blend the sauce (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove
  • fine salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste


  • 1/2 lb (220 grams) Pasta (spaghetti, fusilli, penne...)
  • salt, to taste


  • Cook your pasta in salty boiling water until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, tear up the bread, place it into some milk, and leave to soak for a couple of minutes.
  • Put the walnuts, garlic, and grated parmesan into a small food processor. Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread and add it to the other ingredients.
  • Add the olive oil, 4 or 5 Tbsp of milk or pasta cooking water*, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Blend them all together until well combined.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Drain your pasta and reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water.
  • Return the pasta to the pot, stir in the walnut sauce and add as much pasta cooking water as needed to thin out and give a nice and creamy texture to the dish.
  • Serve immediately with an extra drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground pepper and extra grated parmesan cheese you like.


This is one of those recipes where the quantities can vary, and adjusting the texture and the seasoning to your taste is quite easy.
Cooking water: add pasta water gradually, you might not need all of it. You don't want to water down the flavor, but only make spaghetti nice and moist.
*Milk or cream: If you prefer to keep this dish a bit lighter, blend the ingredients just using pasta cooking water, that's what I do most of the times. However, if you prefer a richer texture, you can substitute the pasta cooking water with milk (or even cream, if you like), they work just fine.
Flavor: don't skip a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground  black pepper when you serve it, they really improve the flavor. You can also serve it with chopped walnuts on top, to add a crunchy texture, or with grated parmesan cheese, to add extra flavor!
Pasta: you can use any short, large or long pasta shapes that work well to capture the walnut pesto sauce. I love spaghetti, but penne, fusilli, conchiglie work fine. Mini pasta shapes like orzo or even elbow macaroni don’t work well in the recipe.
NOTE: Nutritional values are estimates only.


Calories: 604kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 217mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 111IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 194mg | Iron: 2mg


  1. 5 stars
    I had all ingredients at hand and made myself this pasta dish for lunch today. Just added a bit of lemon zest for freshness. Simply delicious!! Will be making it all the time now.

    1. That’s great, I’m so pleased to hear you loved it!
      Thank you, Brigitte. : )

  2. Maria jose says:

    It is not clear to me if I need to put the soaked bread in the food processor or just the milk. I’m excited to try this, thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re very welcome, Maria! Put only the the soaked bread in the food processor, no the milk.
      I’ll be glad if you let me know how it turns out. Enjoy! x

  3. 5 stars
    I love walnuts, so I gave it a try. I have made the following alterations: I have roasted the walnuts for about 15min (more flavor), I also put some lemon jest and some marjoram leaves. Full of flavor!!!!

    1. I love the idea of roasting the walnuts and I’m glad it was full of flavor 😊 Thanks for your feedback, George! x

    2. I’ve been looking for a sauce for pumpkin ravioli. I feel like this would be a good one. Do you agree?
      Anne W.

    3. I do, Anne. Pumpkin and walnuts sound like a lovely pair! x

    4. Sherri L Gray says:

      5 stars
      Have you thought of adding pine nuts to your pesto?

    5. Pine nuts are great, love their flavor… I will try them in this pesto recipe! : )
      Thanks so much for sharing your lovely feedback x

  4. Lesan Lucas says:

    5 stars
    Amazing! This was a terrific addition to our family meal! Even my seven year old and nine year old cleaned their plates. Thanks so much for a delicious alternative to a basil pesto.

    1. I’m so pleased everyone loved it! 😍 Thanks for sharing your lovely feedback and happy holidays! x

  5. Gruyere cheese? Do you think it would be a good exchange for the Parmesan? Thanks ?

    1. I don’t think so, Barbie. Parmesan adds savory flavor, while gruyere cheese is pretty sweet, that will change the final result. Btw, if you feel adventurous and want to try with gruyere anyway, let me know if you enjoy it 🙂

  6. Debora Bellintani says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic alternative to basil pesto, with the added benefits of walnuts, we love it!

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