Spaghetti con Acciughe Bianche e Capperi
We’re back to fish recipes this week and today I’ll share the long-anticipated spaghetti with white anchovies recipe. This is not a family recipe but, I have to admit, it should be. There’s no doubt in my mind that all the adults in my family would have really enjoyed this pasta. And like so many of the pastas they served, it’s easy to make, requires few ingredients, and is ready in minutes. What’s not to like?
This recipe came about clearly by chance. Last Fall, I happened to overhear a cooking program in which Michael Symon used white anchovies in a pasta dish. Never having seen white anchovies, I didn’t think much of it. Then, around Christmas, I found a two-pack of white anchovies at one of the big box stores. I bought them, went home and started working with them, using my aglio e olio recipe as a base. It really was that simple. As you’ll see later when you read the recipe, this is another dish you can have on your dinner table in 30 minutes, tops. And if you’re at all like me, it will find its way to your table more often than you now think possible.
The anchovies I found that day — and continue to use — are not only white but are far less salty and “fishy” tasting than the anchovies one finds in the small tins. These differences make them perfect for this dish and, as you can see in the photo bellow, white anchovies actually look like fish. Imagine that! The recipe calls for 6 whole anchovies but, truth be told, I normally use 8 or 10 of the little fishies when I make this dish. Yes, I really do enjoy them. I suggest that you taste one upon opening the package to see how it tastes before you decide how many to use for a pound of pasta.
As is the case with any of these aglio e olio pastas, time is of the essence. You want to time it so that the anchovies, garlic, and oil “sauce” is ready when the pasta is 2 minutes shy of being al dente. Don’t worry. It’s easy enough to do. And remember: whenever you prepare a pasta, always reserve at least a cup of the water used to cook the pasta. It has saved many a dish for me.
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Spaghetti with White Anchovies and Capers Recipe
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 whole white anchovies, drained & roughly chopped – more to taste
- 4 cloves of garlic, diced or grated – more to taste
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes – more to taste
- 2 tbsp nonpareil capers
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- salt & pepper
- reserved pasta water
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- Make the bread crumb topping:
- In a small mixing bowl, combine bread crumbs, lemon zest, and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- In a small frying pan over med-high heat, lightly toast the bread crumb mixture. Do not allow to get too dark or it will ruin the dish. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Add the pasta and stir.
- In a large frying pan over med heat, add the remaining olive oil. Once hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the anchovies to the pan and continue sautéing until the pasta has cooked 2 minutes less than the package’s cooking instructions indicate for al dente. If you’ve timed everything correctly, the anchovies should be sautéed for just a few minutes before the pasta is ready.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Add capers and pasta to the pan containing the anchovies. Gently toss to evenly coat the pasta with the anchovy & oil mixture. If too dry, add enough pasta water to create a sauce. Continue to sauté until the pasta is al dente, 1 to 2 minutes more.
- Remove from heat, add 2/3 of the bread crumb mixture, and toss.
- Place on a serving platter and garnish with remaining 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture.
- Serve immediately.
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This recipe is so basic and with so few ingredients that there’s little room for variations — or so I thought. In a comment written after last week’s cannelloni post, the Kitchens’ good friend and fellow ravioli maker, Spree, mentioned adding bits of preserved lemon to this dish. Though I’ve yet to try it — still working on corned beef sandwiches here — I will soon, no doubt about it. What’s this? You don’t know how to preserve lemons? Well, neither did I until I saw Spree’s post of January, 2012. Now I use it exclusively to make preserved lemons and you can learn how to do it, too, by going to Spree’s wonderful blog, Cooking-Spree. While you’re there, be sure to look around. You’re in for a treat!
I have yet to find white anchovies in packaging smaller than shown in the image above. In fact, it was while trying to do so that I mistakenly bought the sardines that led to my sardine and pickled pepper recipe of a few weeks ago. I have seen an anchovy salad at one of the groceries but, now that I want to buy it, the salad has disappeared from their “fish/seafood bar.” If I do find some in more convenient packaging I’ll mention it in a post and come back here to announce it.
Be very careful when toasting the bread crumb mixture. If too well-browned, your pasta will have a burnt toast flavoring that isn’t at all desirable. Take the crumbs off of the heat as soon as they begin to have a golden glow.
I used homemade spaghetti with this dish but you can use any of the similar pastas — i.e., linguine, fettuccine, trenette, tagliatelle, etc.
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I’ve mentioned that we ate lunch at home throughout the school year, a consequence of living so close to the parish school. I also said that when the weather turned cold, we would often find a bowl of soup waiting for us to walk through the door. One of those soups Mom prepared and today’s Blast from the Past is Stracciatella. Requiring few ingredients and ready in minutes, this soup is just about as easy to prepare as that stuff in a can — but, oh, so much better. You can see the recipe by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Broiled Halibut with Mushrooms
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