I am always on the lookout for ways to dress pasta other than with the traditional tomato sauce. A while back I watched Lidia Bastianich dress spaghetti with a sauce made of primarily bread crumbs. The dish looked both delicious and incredibly simple to make. Intrigued by that idea when I came upon this recipe which also includes a generous amount of walnuts, I was anxious to give it a try.
The recipe requires just a handful of ingredients: walnuts, good dry bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, olive oil and, of course, cooked spaghetti. The bread crumbs, walnuts and garlic are simply sauteed in the olive oil, then added to the cooked pasta with the fresh parsley. The most time consuming task is chopping the nuts and garlic, and processing the bread crumbs.
Though quite tasty, I'm not sure I would serve it as an entree. This is more of a light lunch item, prima piatti course or a nice side dish to a grilled meat or fish. The recipe is written for enough sauce to coat a full pound of pasta. The photos illustrate me preparing a half-recipe, just enough for a half pound of spaghetti.
Spaghetti with Walnut & Bread Crumb Sauce
from Tuscany, The Beautiful Cookbook by Lorenza De' Medici
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs, about 1-2 slices of bread
1/2 c. good olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked as directed on package
Prepare the walnuts and bread crumbs. Either finely chop by hand for more uniform pieces or chop the nuts in the food processor but do not chop too finely. I used a food processor to turn my bread into crumbs. I used a good multi-grain bread, which add a grainy texture and further enhances the nutty taste to the sauce. A good Italian bread will produce a creamier sauce.
Prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat half the olive oil in a medium size skillet. Add the bread crumbs, garlic and nuts, and saute till garlic is soft, but not burned, and the bread and nuts begin to crisp and turn light golden broown. Season with salt and pepper.
Add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to the sauce to loosen. Pour over the drained cooked spaghetti. Add the parsley and toss together to combine all ingredients. Serve as is or with a sprinkle of grated cheese.