My flatmates, being Italian, are very fond of getting fresh products right from the source. They seem to have all these sneaky contacts that sell them the most delicious things ever, no shops needed. For instance, Blenderman has his own wine supplier who sells us massive 50-liter demijohns of wine that we then bottle ourselves. My other flatmate has a boyfriend-like creature in Parma who recently dropped off a chunk of actual, real Parmesan cheese, about the size of my lower leg with the foot still attached. Both flatmates also went to Tuscany on separate occasions in the past month and brought back the most amazing olive oil, squeezed from some exquisite type of olive on some exquisite Tuscan olive farm, or something. In general, they bring in nice things. I don’t bring in nice things.
I feel I’m the useless member of the household, because I don’t have any amazing contacts to sell me fresh and delicious things, and so everything I contribute to the house fridge comes from the boring market or, God forbid, the supermarket. I really wanted my own sneaky suppliers to impress my flatmates and make them like me more. Imagine therefore my excitement when I saw a little note on a noticeboard somewhere, saying “HAZELNUTS FOR SALE, 3.50 A KILO, CALL LUCA”, with a phone number. A kilo of hazelnuts for only 3.50, that sounded really amazing. I decided to call. Unfortunately the note had been up there for quite a while, and this Luca told me he’d run out of nuts already. “Save my number though, for next year!” he said. Yeah, I guess.
I was really disappointed by having missed out on this amazing opportunity, so when I saw an elderly man selling walnuts for 3.50/kg at a market the other day, I decided I’d buy some of them to make up for the lack of hazelnuts. I went a bit mental and bought a kilo and a half, and I’ve never been so perfectly happy with a purchase in my life. It turns out you can use a 1,5kg bag of walnuts as a small pillow, a massive beanbag, something to slam your flatmates in the torso with, a musical instrument and a conversation starter. You can use the walnuts inside the bag for smoothies, brownies, or apple pie. Or you can go savoury and make salsa di noci, a sauce which is said to be the perfect accompaniment to pansotti, but which you can have with any pasta – or with fresh gnocchi.
For a good wee quantity of sauce, a wee bow full, so probably about 250ml, use:
- about 100gr of walnuts, cracked and shelled
- 1 slice of (old) white bread, or 2 slices if you’re using the tiny slices of pancarré like I did
- some milk – 150ml should be enough
- some good olive oil – to your own judgement, but no less than 3 tbsp
- a clove of garlic
- parmesan cheese, as much as you fancy, but probably around 25gr
- a tablespoonful of pine nuts
- a pinch of salt
The first thing you’re really meant to do is boil the shelled walnuts and remove the little skins from the actual nut itself. I may or may not have skipped this step. I know you’re really meant to do it, but the nuts I bought are really tiny and I just wasn’t feeling it. Thankfully, it’s not actually a very difficult thing to do, it’s just a little bit time consuming. If your walnuts are on the big side, pop them in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain them and peel them. If not, skip this and pretend you didn’t know you were meant to.
Whilst you’re working on your walnuts, soak the bread, without the crusts, in the milk.
Now put the walnuts in your blender, add the cheese, garlic and pine nuts. Take the bread out of the milk (don’t throw out the milk, you’ll need it in a minute!), add it, too, then add a good dash of oil and start grinding all of it up. Now keep adding milk and olive oil until you’re happy with the consistency – the sauce should be fairly thick, but liquid enough to spread over pasta. Taste for salt, and serve as an accompaniment to pansotti, some other type of pasta or whatever you like.