Pansotti are one of the most famous dishes in Ligurian cuisine and the Italian Riviera. They're essentially a triangular ravioli filled with wild herbs, served with a walnut sauce sometimes referred to as white pesto.
Accounts vary. One version says the dish was born in the town of San Martino di Noceto, the word noceto translating to walnut grove.
Another theory claims the dish was published by Touring Club Italia. A sort of cooking guide, they published a dish called "pansoti cu a salsa de nuge" or pansoti with walnut sauce in 1931.
Finally, another theory claims General Pansoit invented the dish to serve his troops in the Italian Riviera. Either way, Ristorante Manuelina, a famous Michelin starred restaurant in Genoa, probably deserves some credit for popularizing the dish after it was introduced.
If you want to be traditional the shape is important. The name pansotti comes from the word pansa, or pancia, meaning belly, referring to the filling that stands up.
There's two parts to the filling: the wild herbs and a specific cheese. You can mimic both easily at home.
The prebboggion, or prebuggiùn is a mixture of foraged bitter herbs and greens. Just like the history of the dish, what it "traditionally" contains can be up for debate. Some recipes call for up to 14 wild herbs, another recipe calls for 7 or as few as 4.
Modern recipes typically call for a mix of chard, parsley, chervil, endive or even spinach. Instead of trying to pin down an exact blend it's fine to use whatever you have on hand. Just make sure you have some bitter greens in the mix.
If you want to stick to tradition, the mixture of greens should include 50% borage. Borage has a long history of use as a food in the Mediterranean and Italy where it's known as boragine.
Traditionally the filling is made with prescinseua: a sort of sheep or goat's milk cheese with a sour note. You can substitute chevre, or a mixture of ricotta and sour cream.
There's a video below where I walk through a few different variations you could try. The video was commissioned by a pottery company in the Spring. Per their request it's much longer than my usual videos so feel free to skip ahead.
Ligurian Pansotti with Walnut Sauce
- 1 Pasta roller
- 1 Food processor
- 1.5 lb foraged greens such as nettles, borage, dock, and dandelions.
- 8 oz chevre or ricotta mixed with 25% sour cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 Tablespoons Grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano plus more for serving
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Scrapes of fresh nutmeg to taste
- 10 egg yolks
- 1 lb OO flour or all purpose flour
- White wine as needed, a few tablespoons
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
Walnut Sauce (makes about 2 cups)
- 2 oz soft bread crust removed
- 1 small clove garlic
- ¾ cup milk
- ¾ cup toasted walnuts
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
- Combine all ingredients except the wine in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix, adding teaspoons of white wine as needed to bring the dough together.
- When a dough forms, use the hook attachment and knead the dough smooth, then wrap in cling film. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Wash the greens, then immerse them in boiling salted water until they're just tender. Remove the greens, cool and squeeze dry. Put the greens and remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- On a surface dusted with flour, roll the dough out to the second-thinnest setting on the pasta machine. Cut the pasta into rough 3 inch by 15 inch rectangles.
- Brush the pasta with water. Quickly divide 6 tablespoon scoops in the middle of the pasta. Cut the pasta into squares. Fold the edges over to make a triangle.
- Fold over the opposite points and seal. Dust the pasta with flour and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer while rolling out the rest of the dough.
- Tear the bread into pieces and cover with milk. Squeeze dry and add to a food processor with the other ingredients except the oil. Puree until smooth, adding a splash of milk to help it puree. Drizzle the oil in at the end.
- Boil a gallon of salted water. Simmer the pansotti until they float and are tender. Use a slotted spoon to put them in a bowl and add 1 ⅔ cups of the walnut sauce.
- Gently toss the pasta with the sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding hot pasta cooking water to thin the sauce and serve.