17: Linguine with Walnuts and Colatura — The Southern Italian Table
“Two Italian cookbooks back to back. A bold move, DeRuyck, or a sloppy one?”
Oh shut up, Voice in My Head, nobody cares.
Let’s be real: After last week’s ordeal, I was in the mood to make something a little simple. A little straightforward. You know, something that required minimal prep, a handful of ingredients, and not a lot of cook time.
Folks, you’re looking at one of my new go-to weeknight Oh Shit recipes.
Now, a good Oh Shit recipe is pretty self-explanatory: It’s the kind of thing you throw together when you get home, look in the kitchen, and go “oh shit, I’m out of anything fresh and have no idea what to make for dinner.” Some Oh Shit recipes have their roots in the freezer — cocktail shrimp, veggies, and those frozen bags of brown rice from Trader Joe’s are lifesavers. But since the dawn of Food Time, the best place to find true Oh Shit ingredients has been the pantry.
The Assignment: Linguine con Noce e Colatura from The Southern Italian Table: Authentic Tastes from Traditional Kitchens by Arthur Schwartz
I didn’t ask for this book, but I’m so glad I have it. It came to me one year when I donated to KCRW and chose the Good Food Cookbook Club membership as my bonus, which scored me 4 mystery cookbooks throughout the year. The recipes were simple but intriguing, and they were the kinds of meals I wanted to be able to throw together effortlessly. Also, I’m a damn sucker for southern Italy — the food, the landscape, the architecture, all of it. This book wasn’t full of the usual big red sauces and heavy braises; there was a much more Mediterranean lilt to it all, and I was INTO IT.
Just not into it enough to, you know, make anything.
The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should get if you can score a copy):
“Quit stalling, Dana — WTF is colatura?”
Ahh, yes, I was waiting to lure you farther into my blog post before I sprung it on you…
IT’S ANCHOVY LIQUID.
But now you’re too intrigued to bail on this recipe! You’re in too deep! Muahahahaha!
Alright, let’s get into it. Anchovies get a bad rap. They’ve been the butt of jokes for a long time, particularly in reference to terrible pizza toppings. (Though I feel like it’s much trendier to make fun of pineapple now, WHICH IS ALSO GREAT, but also also not the point.) I suspect it’s a holdover from a time when the quality of what was being dished up in America was not great and probably not being properly utilized, like how everyone used to be all “ew, Brussels sprouts” after legions of 1950s housewives boiled them into mushy, farty submission; now you can barely stumble into a gastropub that doesn’t have some bougie sprouts on the menu. In fairness, I’m not that interested in anchovies on my pizza, but I am extremely interested in using them to create complex and flavor-packed dishes when combined with other ingredients.
Because yeah, they’re salty as hell and pretty funky. So you don’t need a ton in order to pack a punch. If you’re looking for a way to make a serious umami impact, you might want to give anchovies a second glance.
Now, I didn’t have a bottle of colatura just laying around, but there is a note on the recipe stating how to use anchovy fillets instead of the liquid, and that’s what I opted for. Because I DO like to keep a can or two of anchovies on hand, and this is only making me double down on the impulse.
Things to Note About the Recipe:
- The recipe claims to serve 2-4. I halved the recipe, since there is 1-1 of me. And I stand by their 2-4 claim, because if I’d had 1/4th of the recipe alongside something else, it would have been perfect. But I didn’t, in true Oh Shit meal fashion, so half the recipe was a dandy meal.
- Don’t forget to reserve pasta cooking water before you drain like I did (because once again I didn’t read carefully). Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
- The recipe says to remove the garlic after cooking it in the oil. I imagine that’s to keep it from burning and, like, fine. Just do what I did, and eat the garlic after you pull it out of the oil. Nummy.
- You’re probably gonna want to add more red pepper flakes; some of them will get lifted out with the garlic.
- THE RICHNESS OF THE WALNUTS WITH THE SALTINESS OF THE ANCHOVIES IS FRICKIN’ AMAZING.
- I kinda wished it had a squeeze of lemon to cut through the salty richness, but it was nothing a glass of pinot grigio on the side couldn’t handle.
How did it taste?
Goddamn spectacular. Not for the faint of heart (or the high of blood pressure) but HOO BOY, that flavor was bangin’.
Would I make it again?
In a damn heartbeat. This is my new cacio e pepe… mostly because I always screw up cacio e pepe. I’m even gonna get a bottle of colatura to do it right.
Do I recommend this book?
I do. Modern cookbook fans might be dismayed that not every recipe has a picture, but I can’t wait to dig further into these recipes.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Possibly the recipe on the very next page after this one, the Flat Pasta and Chickpeas, which sounds like another great Oh Shit candidate. But it also might be the Garbage Pail Thick Spaghetti, with its combo of walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, raisins, capers, tomatoes, olives, herbs, OH MY GOD, I want it right now.
Garlic and anchovies are life. Apologies to anyone who ever makes out with me.