I feel sorry for anchovies. They can’t win. When they’re an obvious flagship ingredient in a dish, they’re exposed to scrutiny and hostility by all anchovy haters; if on the other hand they’re simply working their magic behind the scenes, they go completely unnoticed and therefore uncelebrated. What’s worse is the fact that these little silver fish really come into their own in the latter scenario, providing an x-factor umami flavour which transforms recipes across a multitude of cuisines, without a hint of fishiness.
Spaghetti puttanesca are a great example of the contribution anchovies make to a pasta sauce behind the scenes. By the time you’ve finished cooking, these oily fish will be completely dissolved and you won’t know there’s ever been a fish in fin’s reach. The concentration of flavours in this simple plate of spaghetti makes it one of the most fulfilling pastas you could scoff. So let’s get to it, the last in my simple spaghetti series…
Serves 2. Prep time 5mins; cook time 10mins.
200g of spaghetti
a few glugs of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
a good handful of kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp of salted capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
200ml of tomato passata
1 tbsp of tomato puree
salt and pepper to season
a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the spaghetti.
Meanwhile heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and cook until lightly golden.
Now add the anchovies, olives, capers and chilli flakes into the frying pan, sizzling for 2 mins over a medium heat whilst stirring.
Pour in the passata, add the tomato puree and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Leave over a medium heat for 5 mins and stir occasionally. You should notice the passata change to a richer red colour as the sauce cooks.
Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the basil. Drain the spaghetti and tip into the frying man with the sauce.
Give it all a good vigorous stir, and plate up!
Buon appetito and get twirling that fork…. Thanks for reading!