My Love Affair with Anchovies (and Pasta)

I take it from the low traffic on my Anchovy Butter post day that most people aren't as enamored of anchovies as I am. If I could, I think I'd eat them everyday. I love the saltiness and the texture. The little bones kind of freak me out a bit, but if you get those salt-packed Italian ones, there are fewer of those to worry about.

Well, we grew up eating this Pasta with Anchovy dish. It makes a yearly appearance at Christmas during the Feast of the Seven Fishes. My friends just moved back to SF from NJ and their first request was a bowl of Pasta with Anchovy. It was my duty to oblige, especially because I can count on one hand (less than one hand, actually) those around me who would enjoy this dish with me.

As I was preparing to cook the anchovy filets, I recalled when my sister first made this dish for our family, probably when she was about 15 years old. She made the dish and set it on the table. She was pretty proud of herself. It was (and still is) a feat to serve Gran Fran one of her dishes made by yourself. Though there was a tough moment when some of the tiny bones in the 'chovies made themselves known, overall she did a great job. She lives here in SF, too, and I do believe her version always turns out just a little bit better than mine.

Actually, I think I've tasted this dish made by all of my sisters (3) and my brother (1), as well as Gran Fran. Each dish is excellent, but a bit different. Just like taking a photograph, each person interprets things in their own way and no two images or dishes are ever exactly alike. I know there is the joke about the Italian grandmas who don't share quite everything in their recipe or method with anyone so that their version of the dish is always the best. This theme was even used on the Dick Van Dyke show when Laura didn't tell Millie everything she had included in her dip recipe. I don't think Gran Fran is keeping anything from us, it's just that we each have our own style and it comes through in our versions of this dish (and many other old favorites).

I won't try to convert anyone to become an anchovy lover, but I will ask you to give this recipe a try since it is delicious!

Pasta with Anchovies

Serves 8

You will need a heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan and a 5 to 8qt stock pot.


  • 2 cans best anchovy fillets wrapped around capers
  • 3 cloves of garlic quartered
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs ground from good quality white bread (I use crumbs made of rice bread like Udi's)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghettini (I use rice pasta like Tinkyada)


  • Put salted water on to boil for pasta.
  • While pasta is boiling, in a skillet heat olive oil until it shimmers.
  • Add garlic and cook until it is golden.
  • Add red pepper flakes and anchovies with their oil.
  • Stir rapidly to break up anchovies. Reduce heat.
  • Add bread crumbs and toss until crumbs are golden.
  • Remove skillet from heat. Drain pasta. Stir in sauce.

Note: The recipe above specifies salt only in the pasta water because the recipe contains salty anchovies.