Adapted from A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlena de Blasi (Algonquin Books 2002). Copyright 2002 by Marlena de Blasi.
Serves 4 as a main course
Another dish from our first evening together in Saint Louis. With this one, Fernando needed no coaxing. In fact, when he had finished he asked if he might have "un altra goccia di salsa, another drop of sauce." I set a little dish of it before him, and he proceeded to spread it on crusts of bread, eating the little tidbits between sips of red wine. I tried it that way, too, and ever since, we always make extra sauce, keeping it on hand for other uses. See suggestions below.
Cook a pound of fresh tagliatelle, fettucine, or other "ribbon" pasta in abundant, sea-salted boiling water to the al dente stage, drain, and toss with 1½ cups of the following sauce. If fresh pasta is not available, substitute dried artisinal pasta.
In the work bowl of a food processor 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 cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and pulse two or three more times to combine; with the machine running, pour a mixture of the olive oil, cream, and wine through the feed tube and process only until the paste is emulsified. Taste and correct the sauce for salt and spices.
In piú: As divine as this sauce is, tossed with just-cooked pasta, it presents other delicious opportunities: Keep some in the refrigerator and place a spoonful over just-roasted chicken or pork; spread it on grilled bread and pass it along with cold white wine for an appetizer; enrich simple vegetable soups with a dollop, or try it as a condiment for steamed asparagus.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.