By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
Most anchovy pastas are minimalist things, born out of desperation with ingredients from the pantry. The assumption is that if you had anything else in the house, you’d surely cook that instead.
But true anchovy lovers beg to differ. For us, when anchovies are the starting point of a dish, they’re also the star, making pasta so compelling that you won’t want to relegate them to those nights when there’s nothing in the fridge. You’ll want to make them all the time.
I certainly do, loading anchovies into my pasta pot at least two or three times a month. (Actually, rare is the pasta that doesn’t contain them.) I cook myriad variations, but the basic formula goes like this: Melt some anchovies and garlic into a pan of oil, then use that as the foundation for whatever sauce I want to build on.
In summer, there might be ripe tomatoes and herbs, or eggplant and peppers. In the fall, maybe mushrooms, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. In the cold pit of winter, where we are now, I like to use sturdy greens like broccoli raab, kale or spinach, which add vibrancy to the anchovies’ umami funk.
In that last version, I also mix in some chopped cherry tomatoes for a little sweetness and color. Although I cook the anchovies and garlic in olive oil at the beginning of the dish, I stir in some butter at the end, which mellows the inherent bitterness of broccoli raab and rounds out the sauce.
A fat dollop of ricotta gives the pasta some creaminess, which I always crave when the weather gets cold, but it’s not at all essential. And, while I love the saline tang of the capers, you can skip them if they are just one ingredient too many. With all those anchovies in the pan, you probably won’t even miss them.
About those anchovies, for a dish like this, you need to get the good ones. I think the reason so many people are anti-anchovy is that there are a lot of bad, fishy ones on the market. Look for those packed in olive oil, and sample different brands until you find one you like. Then, stock up. After all, a pantry filled with anchovies is the beginning of many amazing future meals — no matter what other ingredients you have in the house.
Pasta With Garlicky Anchovies and Broccoli Raab
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces short pasta, such as shells, wagon wheels or rigatoni
- 2 packed cups parsley, leaves and tender stems
- 10 anchovy fillets, preferably packed in olive oil (one 2-ounce tin)
- 1 small bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced to a paste
- 1 (1-pound) bunch broccoli raab, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato (plum, cherry or grape work well)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Pinch of red-pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Ricotta, for serving (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until 1 minute shy of al dente. Use a coffee cup or measuring cup to save some pasta water, then drain pasta.
2. While the pasta cooks, coarsely chop the parsley, 6 anchovy fillets, scallions, capers (if using) and a pinch of salt. You can chop it all together on a cutting board, or pulse everything briefly together in the food processor; just make sure to keep it coarse.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add oil, remaining 4 anchovies and half the garlic, and let cook, stirring, until anchovies start to dissolve, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in broccoli raab, tomato, about two-thirds of the parsley mixture and a pinch of salt to the pan. Sauté until the raab is tender, 5 to 8 minutes, adding splashes of pasta water as the pan dries out. Taste and season with more salt if necessary.
5. Add pasta to pan along with butter, lemon zest, remaining garlic and red-pepper flakes. Toss until the butter melts and the pasta is combined with the vegetables, adding more pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Divide pasta among bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley mixture. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve with ricotta, if you like.
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