Edward Giobbi's Spaghetti alla Foriana

September 19, 2012

Every week -- often with your help --  FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: An all-season pasta sauce made from your pantry, spice rack, and cheese bin -- in the time it takes water to boil. (It's also vegetarian and easily made vegan, if you're into that sort of thing.)

spaghetti alla foriana

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A vegan, three vegetarians, and several omnivores walk into a dinner party. Your dinner party. There's no punchline here, just a puzzle: What do you feed them? You want the meal to feel graceful and balanced, and put nobody in a corner.

Cookbook author Eugenia Bone has just the thing: Foriana Sauce. "This is my father’s recipe," Bone writes, "One I often serve to vegetarians, who almost always have an epiphany when they taste it on spaghetti."

(It's also served this way on Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, during Lent. "Another example," Bone told me, "of a fast that is a feast.")

foriana sauce ingredients

It's not that pasta was all that difficult to make meatless, but duplicating meat's substance and savory pull is another thing. This is a sauce that captures the same attention that bolognese does, without having to reach for tricky soy or wheat look-a-likes. Garlic and nuts are so much better.

It comes together faster than just about any pasta topping -- faster even than simmering Marcella sauce, or rendering bacon for carbonara or amatriciana. (It is not faster than straight butter and parmesan, but we don't serve that to guests, do we?) Foriana is the only civilized sauce I know that can be done before the water's even boiled.

foriana sauce 

The nuts, garlic, and oregano go in the food processor just till they clump like granola, then you heat them together in a big skillet with olive oil, softening the garlic while you loosen up the flavors in the nuts and the piney dried oregano. Finally you stir in white or golden raisins, and finish with a bunch of pecorino.

A note on pine nuts: they are expensive, but this is a good way to stretch a $10 container of them. If you want to be even more thrifty, double the walnuts or substitute another, like blanched almonds.

foriana sauce

Bone tosses it with spaghettini, which is quite beautiful. It can also work well with shapes that cup and hide pockets of nutty sauce, like rigatoni or orecchiette. With farfalle, it would be a bit like a toothier kasha varnishkes.

But here's the kicker: the life of this sauce doesn't end with pasta.


Bone originally published her father's recipe in Well-Preserved, a book treasured by home-canners and other do-it-yourself types.

It would be easy to assume the book covers only jams and pickles, but traditional water bath canning isn't the only way to save food for later. Bone also explores freezing, curing, smoking, and, perhaps most exciting: smothering in a protective layer of olive oil.

By covering with a thin layer of oil to keep out "spoilers", as she calls them, this sauce will safely keep in the fridge for 10 days. Then, whenever you're ready for it, you can just spoon out what you want, leaving as much oil behind as you like.

preserving in olive oil

Not only does it keep for other uses, it just gets better and better as the aromas of garlic and oregano are lured out into the oil and nutty bits. The uses for this stuff are endless. Bone stuffs pork chops with it and stirs it into a seafood stew. I've mixed it into grain salads and spooned it on lots of bread.

foriana sauce

Now you're ready for almost any diner who might amble through your door, and they will all feel welcome. Lactose intolerant? You're cool. Throw that cheese on the side. Gluten-free? Boil up a separate pot of brown rice pasta. Nut allergic? Find out which nuts -- maybe you can make an easy swap.

If not, then -- and only then! -- you can admit defeat, go back to tomato sauce, and save Giobbi's super sauce for another party and another crowd.

Edward Giobbi's Spaghetti alla Foriana

Adapted from Well-Preserved by Eugenia Bone (Clarkson Potter, 2009)

Serves 4 with sauce to spare

For the Foriana Sauce:

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pine nuts
5 tablespoons sliced garlic (about 10 large cloves)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for covering the jars
1/2 cup white raisins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Spaghetti:

1 cup Foriana Sauce (1/3 above recipe)
3/4 pound spaghettini
1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (serve on the side to make the dish vegan-friendly)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Fan of Well-Preserved? Stay tuned for Eugenia Bone's new preserving cookbook, The Kitchen Ecosystem (Potter 2014).

Photos by James Ransom


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • mary southon
    mary southon
  • Windischgirl
  • Trillinchick
  • Felnr
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Nancy May 10, 2016
Two notes.
Does anyone know if this dish has Sicilian origins? To my knowlege, the combination of raisins, pignoli, garlic & olive oil suggests that...
Second, I loved the taste but found the nut mixture hardly a sauce....more like crumbles. Suggestions to modify?
mary S. October 16, 2013
I love Food52! It is the best internet discovery I've made this year!
Windischgirl October 5, 2012
I make a version of this with broccoli or cauliflower: toast the whole or chopped nuts in a bit of olive oil, add the veggies and saute until crisp-tender, then finish with the golden raisins and a splash of pasta water to moisten. Serve over a stubby pasta, like orrechetti or medium shells, and garnish with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a grating of pecorino. Quick, easy, and satisfies all of my picky eaters at home. It hits all the flavor components: bitter broccoli, sweet/tangy raisins, salty cheese, spicy chili, and unami nuts.

Since I typically don't have pine nuts on hand, I'll sub in sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. I'd avoid walnuts--although they are delish, the skins do have a tannic undertone that may add to the "dirt" flavor.
Trillinchick September 26, 2012
My niece, Katherine, and I discovered a walnut pasta dish. It sounded fabulous, especially since her Tom is vegetarian (and wannabe vegan!). The actual taste of the spaghetti with mostly finely chopped walnuts? Like dirt in a dish - yuck! It may be that just enough walnuts may still be too many, at least away from pastries. Withoutout pignolas, maybe sliced, roasted/toasted almonds? Fingers crossed!
I_Fortuna October 16, 2013
I think the white (golden raisins) are essential for use with the walnuts for the reason you mentioned. Chopped apples even pears, plums or peaches would also work. I love raisins but am diabetic so I have to avoid them in some recipes so I use chopped or grated apples or applesauce. Olive oil too is great for making many food taste delicious. I add it to pancakes and they come out moist and tender. Olive oil can transform many dishes.
Felnr September 26, 2012
Kristen: I was eager to try this and didn't have enough spaghetti on hand, so I did it with orzo instead. I can't say I love it. While the sauce tasted great on its own--nutty, salty, sweet, earthy--all that great flavor seemed to dissipate when mixed with the pasta. The ingredients of the sauce no longer tasted integrated, and the dominant flavor was simply the chalky walnut. Was the orzo a mistake?
Genius R. September 26, 2012
So sorry to hear that! Did you use the mix of pine nuts and walnuts, or all walnut? Adjusting to taste at the end could have helped -- adding more sauce, salt, olive oil, or pecorino till the flavors come through in balance. Also, if you have any left (covered in olive oil), it should get even better.
Kristen M. September 26, 2012
Sorry, I was signed in as Genius Recipes again -- gets me every time!
Felnr September 30, 2012
I used a mix, though I was just shy of a full cup of pine nuts, so I added a few more walnuts. Maybe that was it. I did adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and cheese. It improved a bit the next day. I think I will probably pass on making this one again, but looking forward to more genius recipes!
Trillinchick September 23, 2012
Please, no! Don't sacrifice your pignolas (especially for pesto!). Trader Joe's policy is to not buy from China. You can double-check with management. TJ's has proven to be an ethical company, and protective of their customers. Walnuts are lovely in dishes they are well-suited for, but not across the (cutting) board. Cheers!
djgibboni September 23, 2012
Though Eugenia Bone says that the Pasta alla Foriana is enjoyed on Ischia, the ingredients (nuts and raisins) suggest that it's Abruzzese in origin. The Abruzzesi LOVE their nut sauces and the bits of sweetness in an otherwise savory dish. My great grandmother (an Abruzzese immigrant) made sauces just like this.
Pat E. September 22, 2012
I always default to my fresh herbs...and I grow both of these...but I you think they might be more problematic during the under oil preservation process? I think fresh could spoil more quickly with the limited cooking they receive in this recipe. And I, too, get that awful metallic taste from any Asian grown pine nuts...Spanish and New Mexico grown are fine.
Trillinchick September 22, 2012
When considering adding anchovies, is it more delectable to add notoriously-salty anchovies, or it is equally acceptable to soak the anchovies in milk for 30 minutes before adding them to a recipe (especially where/when there are other ingredients that are resources for shakin' the salt - e.g., cheese?
Plantman September 21, 2012
Crazy Good on spaghetti as wrtitten, I also made a salad of torn curley parlsley leaves mixed with the nut and oil mix,a little what a versitile recipie....GENIUS!
Trillinchick September 20, 2012
For those concerned about the metallic taste of pine/piñon/ pignola nuts, you might want to avoid those from China. Costco, which had the best price, supposedly has stopped carrying Chinese-grown pine nuts. Trader Joe's, bless them, took a lot of industry heat (and kudos from customers like me!) when they announced TJs would no longer sell any Chinese produce. The cost of rapid industrialization/runoff/air quality constantly extrapolates.
AntoniaJames September 21, 2012
Thanks, Trillinchick. This is useful to know. ;o)
mosteff September 23, 2012
I strongly second this point on the chinese pinenuts. My husband, an Italian who has eaten real pesto his entire life had a terrible reaction to Chinese pinenuts where everything he ate tasted bitter for 2 weeks. Now we don't eat them anymore because it is so hard to trust that they are actually not from China. So I'm going to do this sauce with all walnuts - the recipe looks lovely, thanks!!
susan&stan October 14, 2012
Tj's pine nuts come from Russia/Korea and gave me "pine mouth" Don't trust them if you are sensitive to the breed of tree they harvest.
susan&stan October 14, 2012
Tj's pine nuts come from Russia/Korea and gave me "pine mouth" Don't trust them if you are sensitive to the breed of tree they harvest.
Miranda R. September 20, 2012
Beautiful piece, as always, from the Genius HQ. But can we talk for a moment about the term "white raisins". Aren't they called Golden Raisins? Is this a regional term? Super curious.
AntoniaJames September 21, 2012
Some people call them yellow, some call them "white," and I guess some call them "Golden." (I also get a variety at my Indian grocer called "Green Raisins," because they are more green in color than yellow. ) I don't think it's regional, but then, I don't really know one way or the other. I've always assumed that since lighter (greenish and yellow) shades of grapes are used to make white wine, the "white" characterization has carried over to the usage in raisins. (White wine is not truly "white," after all.) ;o) P.S. Don't get me started on the use of "varietals" for anything other than grapes pressed for wine . . .
SJS149 September 20, 2012
Also love the idea of adding a little anchovy . I wonder if sturdy bread crumbs would work for people with nut allergies! This looks great and can't wait to try it. But, I think Marcella Hazan herself would agree that calling her now-widely-used butter-and-onion recipe for tomato sauce "Marcella Sauce" sounds a little odd- it's still tomato sauce, and sounds best described as such.
ChefJune September 23, 2012
Breadcrumbs surely would work in lieu of nuts. Toasted, they also sub for cheese when the dish is for vegans.

I'll be making this one this winter. For sure!
I_Fortuna October 16, 2013
Nutritional yeast is often used as a sub for cheese too. I always have nutritional yeast in my freezer and use it when I run out of cheese for recipes.
mcs3000 September 20, 2012
Any recipe that can make a vegan, veg + carnivore happy is genius (my answer was: take them out to eat). This is better. Hoping to test out soon.
Hilarybee September 19, 2012
This looks great, I just wish there was a nut-less way! I love raisins with pecorino and a touch of olive oil. Dried figs are good too.
sarabclever September 19, 2012
I love this book and have long meant to try this. Thanks for spotlighting it and the reminder. Looks great for the upcoming months.
Kristen M. September 19, 2012
It is! And I love Well-Preserved too. Can't wait for her new one, The Kitchen Ecosystem.
davidpdx September 19, 2012
Definitely a keeper. I'll put the recipe alongside Giobbi's lasagna recipe, which is still my favorite almost 40 years after its publication.
Kristen M. September 19, 2012
Thanks for the lasagna tip!
Elycooks September 19, 2012
Love this. I've been making something similar for years. Usually add steamed cauliflower or broccoli for added oomph. So glad to see Vegan options that taste divine. Woot-woot!
Kristen M. September 19, 2012
I'm often surprised and delighted by how many Genius Recipes just happen to be vegan (and this is coming from a serious milky iced latte addict).
Elycooks September 19, 2012
Love this. I've been making something similar for years. Usually add steamed cauliflower or broccoli for added oomph. So glad to see Vegan options that taste divine. Woot-woot!
AntoniaJames September 19, 2012
Love it! Thinking it would be scrumptious on roasted cubes of winter squash, perhaps subbing dried Zante raisins (known as "currants" in the U.S., but they're not) for the light raisins. I'm also wondering about the dried oregano. We much prefer fresh oregano, with two bushes -- Greek and its lovely Italian cousin -- that thrive here year round. ;o)
thirschfeld September 19, 2012
Antonia, btw, How have you been? Does your Italian oregano taste like marjoram. We have had several local nurseries selling Italian oregano but I swear it is marjoram and this whole thing is simply a marketing ploy to put a familiar name on something people otherwise wouldn't know how to use.
Kristen M. September 19, 2012
AJ, check out my comment on herbs below. The roasted squash suggestion sounds heavenly. Hi Tom -- you conspiracy theorist, you.
AntoniaJames September 19, 2012
Tom, my Italian oregano is very similar to marjoram in taste, but the leaves are quite different. (The marjoram is much more delicate.) Maybe the nurseries could do something really wild and innovative like put up a little sign that says, "Tastes like a mild oregano . . . . but even better!" It's such a wonderful herb. My mother used it as often or more as she used oregano when I was growing up, often with oregano, so I find it kind of odd that people are not familiar with it. I'm going to try both fresh, separately and then maybe together, with this recipe and report back. I'm also thinking this sauce would be terrific tossed with seared/caramelized chunks of zucchini and summer squash. (I don't grow either, so I'm still enjoying both, frequently, especially during the waning weeks of yellow squash season.) I'd love to know where you can buy a cup of pine nuts for $10, however. The good ones -- not the imported variety that causes a horrible, lasting metallic aftertaste in some people, including me -- will set me back at least $20 for that quantity. Not that it's going to stop me from buying them for this . . . . ;o)
thirschfeld September 19, 2012
I grow both marjoram and oregano and love both. Have you tried pinóns from New Mexico. I know the metalic taste you are talking about and it can last for days. There is actually a name for the disease but it escapes me at the moment. Nevertheless I did not have the reaction to the New Mex variety.
thirschfeld September 19, 2012
I grow both marjoram and oregano and love both. Have you tried pinóns from New Mexico. I know the metalic taste you are talking about and it can last for days. There is actually a name for the disease but it escapes me at the moment. Nevertheless I did not have the reaction to the New Mex variety.
thirschfeld September 19, 2012
Kristen have you been reading my email again.