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Saturday
Feb262011

« "Grown up" Spaghetti with Anchovies »


When I was growing up, my mother would reluctantly make my father Spaghetti with Anchovies as a special treat.  Or should I say, she would cook the pasta, heat the oil and leave the rest to him -- including putting the anchovy fillets into the hot oil.  This was definately not food that she grew up on and who would want to eat this stuff anyway?

I don't know why, but I have been thinking about this dish lately.  Actually, craving it. So I started to wonder, how can I improve on my mother's reluctant recipe?

A quick tour of the internet quickly turned up multiple recipes for Pasta with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs (Spaghetti con Acciughe e Mollica), a very common Southern Italian dish. Some recipes call for fresh, or salted anchovies, but most use oil packed fillets -- which are a staple in my pantry.  Garlic is also commonly used, along with olive oil and flat leaf parsly. Beyond that, I saw many variations on the theme, including the addition of onion, hot pepper flakes, and walnuts (in lieu of the bread crumbs).

The last time I purchased anchovies packed in olive oil, they were in a 4.2 oz jar, rather than the standard 2 oz tin.  There are typically 7-10 anchovies in a 2 oz tin, so I added 8 coursely chopped fillets to the hot olive oil.  I then added 6 cloves of finely chopped garlic, a small finely chopped shallot and aproximatley one Tablespoon of hot pepper flakes.  

As a word of caution, be very careful when you add the anchovies to the skillet, because they will sizzle and the oil will splash. (I now understand why my mother handed this step over to my father!).  It took me 3 minutes to make the sauce, and 10 minutes to clean the stove top.

For the breadcrumbs, I used 2 oz of stale bread, which I lightly toasted and then coursely ground it in a mini chopper.  I then added a teaspon of finely chopped fresh rosemary (no parsely in the house), salt, pepper and one Tablespoon of olive oil to the crumbs.

Most recipes recommend serving this dish with pecorino cheese.  I was initially reluctant to add cheese to a fish dish, but in the end, I did.  It was actually a very nice addition.

I was very pleased with how this dish came out.  When (not if) I make it again, I will increase the number of anchovy fillets to 12 and substitute 4 oz of chopped walnuts for the bread crumbs.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Here is the recipe.

 

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