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Tagliatelle con Arance e Mandorle
At 16th-century banquets this pasta accompanied poultry and meats. Try the combination with Christmas Capon for an important dinner. The sweet pasta makes an unexpected and very good dessert.
Wine Suggestions: From Emilia-Romagna drink a fruity and softly sweet Albana di Romagna Amabile (amabile means sweet). From the Veneto select a red Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Amarone, rich and full of fruit and perfect with the capon and pasta. With the pasta alone, have sweet red Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, or Sicily's white Malvasia delle Lipari.
- Shredded zest of 3 large Valencia or navel oranges
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Generous 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 quarts salted water
- 1 pound imported dried tagliatelle
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup (5 ounces) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
Working Ahead: The sauce can be made several hours ahead, covered and set aside at room temperature. Reheat to bubbling before adding the pasta.
1. Making the Sauce: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Use a wooden spatula to stir in about 1/4 cup of the orange juice and the 2/3 cup of sugar. Melt sugar in the butter over medium heat, stirring in spoonfuls of orange juice frequently to keep the sauce from crystallizing (reserve about 1/3 cup orange juice for finishing the sauce).
Once sugar is dissolved, heat can be turned up to medium high or high. Stir occasionally as the mixture bubbles and slowly turns amber. When mixture becomes deep golden amber, stir in the pepper and two-thirds of the orange zest. Cook only a second or two to protect rind from burning. Then step back from the skillet and pour in the last 1/3 cup of orange juice at arm's length. It will bubble up and possibly spatter, then it will thin the sauce to ideal consistency. Turn off the heat. If making ahead, remove the pan from the heat, cool and cover.
2. Cooking the Pasta: Have a large platter and dinner or dessert dishes warming in a low oven. If serving with the capon, have it ready to serve. Make sure pasta water is at a fierce boil. Drop in the pasta and cook until tender but still resistant to the bite. Drain in a colander. Reheat the sauce to a lively bubble. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat thoroughly. Turn onto the heated platter, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar, cinnamon, cheese, almonds, and lastly, the remaining orange rind. Place the capon atop the pasta and serve. Carve the bird at the table. Spoon a small mound of pasta onto each dinner plate and top it with slices of capon. If serving pasta as a dessert, mound small portions on heated dessert plates and serve hot.