Pasta with Walnut Sauce

A rich, bread-thickened nut sauce that’s unbelievable with stuffed pasta.–Mark Bittman

LC No Dairy, No Problem Note

Author Mark Bittman notes that you can make a nondairy version of this sauce. Simply use about 1/2 cup bread crumbs, nondairy milk, and omit the Parmesan. Or so he says. You tell us.

Pasta with Walnut Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 30 M
  • Makes about 4 servings


  • Salt
  • 1 thick slice Italian bread
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup walnut halves (or substitute pecans)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound dried, fresh, or stuffed pasta


  • 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place the bread in a small bowl, cover it with milk, and let it soak.
  • 2. Combine the nuts, garlic, cheese, and marjoram in a food processor and, with the machine running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream, adding just enough oil so that the mixture forms a very thick paste. Now add the bread-and-milk mixture and enough water to make a sorta saucy mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 3. Cook the pasta until tender. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the sauce and, if the mixture appears too thick, thin it with a little of the pasta cooking water or more olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pass more Parmesan on the side.

Sauce Variations

  • Pasta with Walnut-Tomato Sauce
  • The acidity in the tomatoes lightens the sauce a bit. Add 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped, or 1/2 cup chopped canned tomato, with the nuts in step 1.
  • Pasta with Rich Walnut Sauce
  • Blend 3 to 4 tablespoons mascarpone, cream cheese, or heavy cream with the nuts in step 1.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Susan Bingaman

Sep 07, 2007

Don’t let the bread scare you. The walnut sauce comes together beautifully, and you will never know that bread and milk bind together the nuts, Parmesan, marjoram, and garlic. Bittman is right, the sauce is divine over stuffed pasta, but it’s also delicious over tagliatelle as well. Since the pasta with walnut sauce is made with pantry staples, it’s a recipe I’ll rely on again and again.

Chiyo Ueyama

Sep 07, 2007

Pasta sauce with nuts, marjoram, and . . . bread? It was a combination I probably wouldn’t think of on my own. The recipe looked simple, and I had all the ingredients at home, so I HAD TO try it. I used pecans (the recipe says “walnut or pecan halves”) and dried fettuccine (“dried, fresh, or stuffed pasta”). The pasta cooked in eight minutes, during which I prepared the sauce in my mini food processor. I tasted the sauce by itself first, and it was delicious. The sweet pecans, salty cheese, hot garlic, and, although just 2 teaspoons, very aromatic marjoram. If I weren’t testing the recipe for the web site, I would have grabbed some bread and started dunking. The sauce was creamy and substantial, and it held on to the smooth surface of the fettuccine very well. The recipe lets you adjust the thickness of the sauce to your liking with either more olive oil or the cooking water from the pasta. I recommend the cooking water as the sauce already has plenty of oil. I’ll definitely make this again.

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