Sicilian Pasta with Anchovies and Bread Crumbs
I have been told that in Sicily, you will rarely eat anything that is produced or grown more than a few miles from where you are sitting. They believe in local, fresh and simple food. Sardines caught fresh in the morning is soon found in a delicious lunch, grilled or cooked in their unofficial ‘national dish’ – Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines).
Pasta c’anciova e muddica (Pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs) is also a very Sicilian dish and it’s a new discovery for me. I’ve always wondered about having breadcrumbs in pasta – it’s like adding carbs to carbs! However, it’s a dish I will definitely be cooking again.
Fresh anchovies are very popular in the Mediterranean, very similar in taste to sardines. However they do not travel well and so almost all exports are cured, packed in salt or oil. Many people I know are not fond of these little flavour-packed fish but I love them! They are really great blended with butter and adds instant flavour to pasta, vegetables etc.
I saw this recipe online a while back and thought it sounded divine. It sat in my drafts folder for the longest time until I finally remembered that I have a few fillets of anchovies left which would be perfect for it.
Fresh hot spaghetti tossed in a delicious combination of melted anchovies, soft, sweet onions and garlic and topped with teeny, tiny toasted breadcrumbs and finished with an added sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil – speechless. So simple, so wonderfully tasty.
Pasta c’anciova e muddica
* 160g spaghetti
* 8 anchovy filets, salted or brined
* 1 large garlic clove
* 1 small onion
* 25-30 g bread crumbs ( I used one slice of regular sandwich bread)
* some dried chilli pepper (to taste)
* chopped parsley
* a teaspoon of grated Sicilian pecorino (optional) (I used parmigiano reggiano)
* 3 tablespoons of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
* salt for the pasta
Coarsely chop the anchovies, slice the garlic and onion paper-thin and set aside.
While you bring the water for the pasta to a boil, heat the bread crumbs in a pan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the bread crumbs become a nice tan colour. Remove the pan from the flame, pour half the oil into it and stir till all the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside.
When the water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the remaining oil in a pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, add the chopped anchovies and with a wooden spoon, mash them till they dissolve into the oil. Add the onion and garlic and let it cook till they just start to become golden, then add the chilli, reduce the heat and cook for another two minutes; set aside.
The pasta should be ready and al dente by now: drain it well and dress it with the anchovy-onion-garlic mixture. Add two thirds of the bread crumbs, the parsley and cheese (if using) and stir well. Serve with last sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and light drizzle of olive oil.