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March 18, 2007

Anchovy Pasta

Image courtesy of the US government... or so Wikipedia tells me
Aaaaaahhh, the anchovy. Our poor, misunderstood piscine friend.

These fellows have a long and storied culinary history that sadly seems to be merely a preamble to their current standing as running gag for the carry-out pizza set. The sheer number of people who have a visceral "no way in hell" reaction to anchovy consumption never ceases to amaze me, but I suppose it shouldn't. Have you tasted the garden variety cheap corner pizza joint anchovy lately? I've dug things out of clogged drains that were less pungent. But when it comes to seafood there's a huge range between the good and the bad, and the rule applies tenfold for anchovies. Those who are only familiar with the powerful, nasty, salty pungency of bad anchovies are often surprised to discover that they can be quite mellow and even sweet.

This dish is an old favorite that I frequently bust out when I want to convert an anchovy hater. The focus is on the fish, but there are enough things going on that it can ease somebody in. When you're looking for these guys, salted is best, but packed in oil will do. If the former, they need to be filleted and rinsed thoroughly. If the latter, try to buy from a good source and don't skimp. Good anchovies in oil can be quite tasty, bad ones can be downright awful, and you usually get what you pay for. You'll know the difference. When I'm making this on a day-to-day basis, I just use cheapy lumpfish caviar, but you could obviously class it up quite a bit by using something nicer.

Dominic Armato

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¾ C. breadcrumbs
¼ C. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ C. chopped anchovy fillets
1 Lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente
2 Tbsp. red lumpfish caviar
⅓ C. shredded fresh mint
grated parmigiano reggiano
fresh ground black pepper

Spaghetti with Anchovies, Breadcrumbs and Mint
Serves 4-5 as a primo, 3-4 as an entree

First off, you want to toast the breadcrumbs. Heat the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy pan. Then add the breadcrumbs and toast, shaking constantly, until they turn a deep golden brown. Get them out of the pan right away so they don't burn, and set them aside for later.

While your pasta is cooking (follow the commandments!!!), heat the remaining ¼ C. olive oil in a large skillet or small pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it just starts to turn light golden, then pull it off the heat. Immediately add the anchovies, stir well, and set the sauce aside off heat.

When the pasta is ready, add it to the anchovy sauce along with the caviar, mint and half the reserved breadcrumbs. Toss them to combine off the heat.

Plate the pasta and top it with a sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano, the remaining breadcrumbs, a couple twists of black pepper, and maybe an additional tuft of shredded mint if you're feeling particularly froofy.


This looks great. Been looking forward to the pasta posts for a while.

Hey, Nat!

Weeeeelll, this isn't technically one of the Pasta Primers... but those are still coming!

Honest :-)

Oh well...now I've got something to try in the meantime!

I love the lighting on your photo. It looks professional. Makes me hungry.

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