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.

The Pasta

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 1 1/2 cups of the following sauce. If fresh pasta is not available, substitute dried artisinal pasta.

The Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

  • 8 ounces shelled walnuts, lightly roasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Several gratings of nutmeg
  • Sea salt and just-cracked pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup late-harvest white wine such as Vin Santo or Moscato
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.

From A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlena de Blasi (Algonquin Books 2002). Copyright 2002 by Marlena de Blasi.