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Thick Spaghetti with Bread Crumbs

Perciatelli con Pan Grattugiato

SERVES 4 TO 6

Perciatelli is similar to spaghetti but thicker and hollow. It is also called bucatini and is very popular in southern Italy. In Salemi, Sicily, I ate perciatelli on the Feast of St. Joseph, the carpenter, served with "toasted" bread crumbs that had been tossed with a little sugar. Some say that the bread crumbs are symbolic of the wood shavings of a carpenter and the sugar is always an ingredient because on the feast, the Holy Family, often portrayed by children, are the first to eat this dish.

A coarse-type bread makes the best crumbs; soft bread will not have enough texture and crunch to hold up when tossed with the cooked pasta. Serve as a first course followed by roasted chicken or capon.

Ingredients

6 tablespoons Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs

1 tablespoon sugar

1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread crumbs and stir with a wooden spoon to coat them with the oil. Cook the crumbs over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown in color. Remove the crumbs to a bowl, stir in the sugar, and set aside.

Cook the perciatelli according to the instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the cooking pot, stir in the water, the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and the salt. Transfer the pasta to a platter. Sprinkle half of the bread crumbs over the top and, with two spoons, toss the pasta to evenly coat the strands with the crumbs. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top and serve immediately.

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