This amazing pasta dish from the 16th century was served at royal banquets along with maybe another hundred or so other elegant dishes. The abundance of dishes and use of expensive ingredients like sugar and almonds from Spain, and spices like cinnamon and black pepper from the far East, were presented to impress guests and showcase how well-off the hosts were. The combination of tagliatelle pasta in a sauce of caramelized sweet oranges with the majestic looking (and tasting) Christmas capon was (and is) a showstopper.
Tagliatelle con Arance e Mandorle (Pasta with Caramelized Oranges and Almonds)
- Large pot
- Zester or vegetable peeler
- Large skillet
- 6 quarts Water
- 3 large Oranges- Navel or Valencia
- 1 cup Whole blanched almonds
- 8 tbsp Unsalted butter (4 oz)
- 1½ cup Orange juice
- ⅔ cup Sugar
- ⅙ tsp Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb Imported dried tagliatelle
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
- ⅔ cup Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
- PREP – Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Remove the zest from the orange in long strips being careful not to include the bitter white pith. Boiling zest for 3 minutes then transfer to a colander, drain, rinse in cold water and set aside in a bowl. Lightly toast and coarsely chop almonds. Place a large serving platter in a warm oven. If serving on small plates, add those too to keep warm.
Make the Sauce
- Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in ½ the orange juice and sugar. Melt the sugar until it dissolves Stir in a tbsp of orange juice every so often to keep sugar from crystalizing. Turn heat to medium high and cook until the mixture turns amber, about 2 minutes. Quickly add the pepper and ⅔ of the orange zest. Pour in the remaining orange juice from a distance. It will bubble up and then smooth the sauce to desired consistency. Turn off heat.
Finish and Serve
- Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in the pot with liquid used to boil the orange zest. Drop in pasta and cook until it tender but with a slight resistant to the bit (al dente). Drain in a colander. Reheat sauce to a bubble. Add pasta to skillet with sauce and toss to coat thoroughly. Turn it to the heated platter and scatter the top with the cheese, cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and then the remaining zest. Either mound small portions on heated dessert plates or add cooked Christmas Capon right on top of the pasta on the same platter. Serve hot.
- The sauce can be made several hour ahead. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Reheat to bubbling right before adding the pasta.