In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. Add shortening, sugar, salt, and 3 cups flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
Turn dough out onto an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 48 pieces for thick breadsticks or 72 pieces if you prefer thinner ones. Roll each piece into a 10-inch long strand. Scatter the nuts over the work surface. Lightly roll the strand in the nuts so the strands become coated. Place on well-greased baking sheets. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake thick breadsticks for 20 minutes, thin ones for 15 minutes.
Immediately remove breadsticks from baking sheets and cool on a rack.