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Monday, July 07, 2008

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies: Recipe

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies
Conventional wisdom says a good cookbook is one that allows you to reproduce a given recipe with consistently successful results. Another opinion is that the recipes should be really special, not run-of-the-mill or the best versions of classics. I may be in the minority, but I most appreciate a cookbook that inspires me, gives me good ideas, and points the way. Adventures of an Italian Food Lover is such a cookbook.
Adventures of an Italian Food Lover

Italian food is probably my favorite cuisine. I learned to cook Italian food when I lived in Italy but I've never stopped learning. What I understand best is that Italian cuisine is about balance. It's about just the right amount of sauce and just the right texture to the pasta. It's about high quality ingredients combined, often simply, to create something magical. It's this elegant simplicity and balance of flavors and textures that appeals to me. The perfect combination of ripe tomatoes, luscious mozzarella and basil leaves. No balsamic vinegar, no embellishment. Or melon draped with slices of prosciutto. It's like the well-dressed woman who takes off one thing before she leaves the house. Sophisticated and refined but restrained.

This past weekend I made enchiladas. Roasting and shredding the chicken, making the sauce, stuffing then assembling the enchiladas in baking dishes took the better part of a day. But another meal I made this weekend was equally satisfying and took a fraction of the work and the ingredients. It was Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies, from Adventures of an Italian Food Lover.

It was the second time I made the dish, and I tweaked it a little bit. The combination of ingredients is most important, after that, as with all recipes, find the balance that works for you. Just a few other recipes from the book that I find intriguing include Campari Cocktails with Salami and Figs, Pasta and Bean Salad with Celery Pesto, Leek and Sausage Orzotto, Risotto with Almonds and Broccoli and Baked Cherry Tomatoes.

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies (adapted from Adventures of an Italian Food Lover)
Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a first course


2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3-4 filets of oil packed anchovies
2 Tablespoon chopped walnuts
pinch of chili flakes
3 Tablespoons minced parsley
8 ounces spaghetti


Heat the olive oil over low heat and cook the garlic until it softens and barely begins to color. Add the anchovies and mash until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili and parsley, stir and remove from the heat. Cook the pasta in boiling water until it is 3/4 of the way done.

Drain the pasta and reserve some cooking water. Toss the pasta with the sauce and cook over high heat, adding about 1/3 cup cooking water. Cook, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until the pasta is al dente.