If you’ve never tried anchovy pasta before, you’re in for a treat. If it sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Not only is this dish incredibly easy, but the flavors aren’t overpowering. Anchovies and sliced garlic are gently warmed in extra virgin olive oil until the fillets essentially dissolve, creating a rich, savory sauce. This pasta recipe comes together in about 20 minutes, and is adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s final cookbook, Appetites.
When Anthony Bourdain died this past June, I was in shock, like everyone else. Many people in the industry came out with remarkably thoughtful and well-written tributes within 24-28 hours. These tributes continued to roll in for the next week or two and I read as many as I could handle with both numbness and emotion.
I can’t compete with amazing food writers like Helen Rosner and Kat Kinsman, nor would I try, but I decided to write a brief tribute alongside one of his more simple recipes. Then I stalled. Now here we are, over two months later.
There were two people who had a major impact on my decision to switch career paths in 2009 and attend culinary school– Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain. They both struck a different chord with me that ultimately pointed in the same direction.
While Julia usually sparked the more joyous side of my inspiration, Anthony Bourdain brought out a different sort of feistiness in me. There were many occasions where his divisive words pissed me off, but that annoyance ultimately fueled me. Don’t tell me I’m too old to attend culinary school, sir. I’ll show you.
Divisiveness aside, I ultimately found so much inspiration in both his books and from watching No Reservations. If you haven’t read the New Yorker piece that initially brought him into the public eye, I highly recommend it.
As someone who has struggled with depression for my entire life, his death hit me especially hard. I know it impacted many others as well. There’s really not much else to say that hasn’t already been expressed a thousand times.
This recipe is from his final cookbook, Appetites. If you don’t own any of his cookbooks and aren’t sure which one to try, I highly recommend it. The intro is mostly about his daughter, and how having a family changed his way of cooking at home.
The recipes aren’t overly complicated. They’re comfortable. You’ll find classics like New England clam chowder, buttermilk biscuits, and macaroni and cheese. Mostly seasoned with a pinch of sarcasm, as we would expect. You won’t be disappointed.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (see notes)
- 1 pound spaghetti, uncooked
- 1 cup Italian parsley leaves
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to taste
- In a large sauce pot, bring generously salted water to a rolling boil.
- Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat (I recommend a flat-sided pan for this recipe), then add the olive oil. Add the garlic, anchovies, and pepper flakes, coat with the oil, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon, until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies are melting into the oil, 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan to make sure the garlic doesn't burn or toast; adjust the heat if necessary.
- Meanwhile, once the pasta water reaches a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Just before it's finished, add the parsley to the sauté pan and toss with the other ingredients.
- Use tongs to carefully transfer the pasta directly from the boiling water to the sauté pan (you want some pasta water to transfer; it will help create the sauce).
- Increase the heat to medium and toss the pasta with the pan ingredients. If needed, add a small drizzle each of oil and pasta water to keep everything smooth. Taste the pasta and season with salt to taste.
- Transfer to individual serving plates or bowls and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper won't add much heat, just a bit of flavor and warmth in the background. I added an extra pinch of crushed red pepper, which still didn't overpower. You can add a bit more if you like a kick.
Barely adapted from Appetites by Anthony Bourdain
More Pasta Recipes You May Enjoy
- Cacio e Pepe
- Creamy Sausage Mushroom Pasta
- Spaghetti with Parmesan, Pine Nuts and Brown Butter Sauce
- Penne Pasta with Short Rib Ragu (from Fifteen Spatulas)
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