If you’ve ever bought a bag of walnuts, chances are it only sees the light of day when a bowl of yogurt or salad needs some crunch, or a simple snack is in order. But walnuts are more versatile than we give them credit for—just ask Justin Smillie. The renowned chef behind popular N.Y.C. eatery Upland recently teamed up with the California Walnut Board to create an entire four-course meal out of the omega-3-rich nut.
“I love walnuts for their delicate and gentle crush, which releases subtle oils,” says Smillie. “I love using them raw, just shelled with the tannins still present. It is a very clean nutty oil that always pairs well with dark, buttery tones. I also love the versatility of their texture, whether smashing in a mortar and pestle, rolling through a mouli grater, or crushing with back of a knife.”
One of the stand-outs from the collaboration between Smillie and the California Walnut Board was a flavor-packed Spaghetti with Walnut-Onion Jam, Savory (an aromatic plant on the mint family), and Anchovy—try it for yourself using the recipe below.
Spaghetti with Walnut-Onion Jam, Savory, and Anchovy
5 Vidalia onions
1 cup oil cured anchovy filet, drained and finely chopped ($5; shop.agferrari.com)
2 cups lightly toasted walnuts, chopped to 1/16-inch pieces
3 tbsp finely chopped savory
1 tsp pepperoncino
1/2 tsp sugar
1 splash sherry vinegar
Freshly cracked pepper (be more aggressive than your initial instinct)
1½ tbsp finely grated parmesan
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 swish olive oil for finishing
1 tsp butter
1 pinch chive
1/2 tsp parsley chiffonade
1 cup arugula
1 lb fresh extruded spaghetti (Typically, it can be purchased at any Italian specialty market, but if it’s unavailable, any bronze dye artisanal brand will do.)
1. To make the onion jam: In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven off heat, add the onions, olive oil, butter, and sugar and mix
thoroughly with your hands to incorporate. This will help break down the structure of the onion, and
pulls out the natural starches and sugars.
2. Place the pot over medium heat and begin cooking the onions, stirring frequently in the beginning,
and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
3. After 15 minutes, add the chopped anchovies.
4. The onions will take about 35-40 minutes to cook out and caramelize completely. We are looking for
a mahogany color.
5. Add the savory, pepperoncino, sherry vinegar, black pepper, and toasted walnuts. Cook for an
additional 2 minutes in order to incorporate.
6. Take off the heat and allow to cool and room temperature. Once cool, top with oil and store in the
refrigerator for up to a week.
7. To assemble the spaghetti: In a large bowl, add the onion jam spread around evenly, and allow to come to room temperature.
8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season like the sea, and cook the pasta until done, about 8 minutes.
9. Add to the bowl with the jam, the cheese, and the olive oil. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon and adjust the consistency with the cooking water.
10. Stir in the arugula and lemon juice and serve in a warm bowl. Shave pecorino with a wide tooth plane, and serve.