Basil Harvest: Walnut Basil Spaghetti

Sometimes food has sentimental value.  For me, some recipes are steeped in comforting memories of my childhood home, fresh vegetables from the garden, mom in the kitchen or dad at the grill.  I'm lucky.

This pasta does something like that for my husband. Coming from a large family, he cherishes memories of big dinners and holiday gatherings.  Each year on Christmas eve, his grandmother served spaghetti with walnuts to accompany her seafood dinner, which was the biggest and most important holiday dinner in the Read family.  This tradition remains strong today. On Christmas eve, my mother-in-law recreates the dinner from years past, including walnut spaghetti.  We're lucky.

I don't wish to dilute a special tradition. So, as delicious as it is, I only make this pasta once per year when the basil is abundant and needing an edible purpose.  I also changed the recipe a bit for the same reason.

Heres what you'll need:

  • 1 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts, chopped
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets or 1-2 tbsp. of anchovy paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • salt and pepper

Here's what you'll do:

Spread the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 350 degrees until golden and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.

Bring a large pasta pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti 8-10 minutes until al dente and drain, reserving at least 1 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat swirl about 2 tbsps. of olive oil in the pan, add garlic and anchovy fillets. Heat through allowing the anchovy to melt and the garlic to lightly cook. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat and reserve.

Combine cooked pasta, walnuts and garlic together in the pasta pot.  Add most of the basil leaves, keeping some aside for garnish,  and some pasta water to obtain a lightly saucy consistency.   Transfer to a serving bowl and season with salt, pepper, grated parmesan, a few torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.   Enjoy this as a meat-free dinner or as a side dish with chicken, fish, beef or pork.

What recipes do you reserve for special traditions?

xo & a pinch,