Weeks before Christmas, harbingers of the feast begin to appear in Neapolitan food shops with the arrival of the annual harvest of walnuts from the Sorrento peninsulaincomparably fresh, plump, flavorful nuts that are renowned throughout Italy. Despite its rich flavors, u spaghett' antalina, a meatless pasta for Christmas Eve, is poor-folk food, a dish for those too poor to have more than a few anchovies in the festive sauce. The importance of using extremely fresh nuts in this dish cannot be overstressed.
Plus: Pasta Recipes and Tips
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 whole salted anchovies (see Note) or 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the walnuts in a pie pan and toast in the oven for 4 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel and rub together to flake away as much of the skin as possible. Coarsely chop the nuts.
In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the anchovies and cook, stirring and pressing them into the oil with the back of a fork until almost dissolved. Stir in the walnuts and keep warm.
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until almost al dente; add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the walnut sauce and bring to a simmer. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the walnut sauce. Turn and stir the pasta to coat it with the sauce as it finishes cooking, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Season with salt. Transfer the pasta to a warmed bowl, garnish with the parsley and serve at once.
To prepare salted anchovies, rinse them under running water. Strip the fillets away from the bones; discard the bones and tails. don't worry about getting every tiny bone out of the filletsmost will dissolve in the sauce anyway.
Garlic, anchovies and walnuts need a fragrant regional white to bridge their flavors. Try a Fiano di Avellino from Mastroberardino or Feudi di San Gregorio.
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