Easter Sunday, driving from South Florida in heavy traffic, my mind turned to ideas for a quick dinner upon returning home. I settled on Orecchiette (pasta shaped like little ears) with spicy Italian sausage and Rapini if it was available in the market.
Stopping on the way home, I found the market closed for the holiday. I tried another before conceding that ingredients for dinner would be sourced from the pantry on this day.
Still in the mood for pasta, I took comfort knowing there several half-full boxes and bags of pasta in various shapes in the pantry and that there would also be canned tomatoes on the shelves. My dinner plan came together though when an open pantry door revealed a three high stack of brightly colored tins containing flat anchovy filets.
Classic Spaghetti con Aglio Olio e Alici combines the flavors of peppery olive oil, pungent garlic, spicy red pepper, crunchy breadcrumbs, briny anchovies and sharp Pecorino. This version uses two additional ingredients – salty capers and the bright flavor of fresh lemon. Altogether, this spaghetti delivers big on umami flavor.
I had not made the dish in a long time and found I enjoyed the reunion. After a long, tiring drive, this simple to prepare spaghetti put a smile on my face as I plunked down on the couch to catch up on a little television. Not much more that needs to be said.
For two servings
- Good quality dried spaghetti such as Rustichella d’Abruzzo
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 – 2 ounce tin of flat anchovy filets packed in oil
- 1 generous pinch of dried red pepper flakes
- 3 to 4 cloves of fresh garlic finely minced
- 1-1/2 tablespoons capers bottled in vinegar
- 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 handful of coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Fresh grated Pecorino Romano
- Bring salted water to boil in a large saucepan. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions tasting towards the end of the cooking process to determine if the right degree of al dente has been achieved.
- To prepare the sauce, bring a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer add at all of the anchovies in the tin and about 1/2 of the oil the anchovies were packed in. Some may want to use fewer anchovies.
- Cook the anchovies until these break down and nearly dissolve in the oil. Add red pepper flakes, minced garlic and capers to pan. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes longer being careful that the garlic does not burn.
- Add dried breadcrumbs to the pan and stir until these come together in a “clumpy” fashion. Add the juice of 1/2 lemon. At this point, the sauce can be removed from the burner if necessary while the pasta is cooking.
- When the pasta is ready, return the sauté pan with the sauce ingredients to a medium high burner. If the breadcrumbs have absorbed most of the olive oil in the pan add additional oil so that there is enough to coat the pasta when is added.
- Add chopped parsley to the pan and a small ladle of the pasta water. Stir vigorously so the oil is emulsified in the added water. Add the pasta and toss in the sauce until all of the ingredients are combined.
- Place the coated pasta individual serving bowls. Season with black pepper to taste and grate fresh Pecorino over the dish to serve.