I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring Sicily yet however it’s on my ever-expanding list of places to visit.
When I do go, I’ll be eagerly seeking out ‘pasta c'anciova e muddica’ – anchovy pasta with toasted breadcrumbs.
I've recently introduced a new addition to the pasta -- the poached egg. And it's here to stay.
The rustic recipe features in my household at least once a week. Even when I’ve run out of most basic of fridge staples like milk and bread, I know I’ve got jars or tins of plump anchovies, bread crumbs and chili flakes at hand.
I have to admit however that my love for the anchovies is rather recent. For many years, my feelings towards anchovies were dominated by teenage memories of my tongue being assaulted by the vile little fish often found scattered over other people's pizzas.
Now it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without them. Whether used in Sicilian pasta, a Caesar salad or a creamy mayonnaise, good anchovies lend that burst of sweet, salty pungency that’s hard, if not impossible, to substitute.I read somewhere once that physically, anchovies can be treated much like garlic. They can be finely chopped and stirred into a vinaigrette or compound butter. Pounded into smooth paste to intensify a creamy risotto or sautéed whole with onions and garlic to form the delicious base of a pasta or stew.
Good anchovies should taste of the sea but not be overly fishy. They come salt or oil-packed in jars or tins. After sampling many different brands, I have found the best-tasting anchovies to hail from the coast of Spain. I opt for fillets stored in extra virgin olive oil. They are more intensely flavoured without the piercing saltiness of salt packed anchovies.
Sicilian Anchovy Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs
2 room temperature eggs
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 tsp of dried chili flakes
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
8-10 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Angel hair pasta for 2 (about 200g)
Good quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
Salt for pasta water
- Poach the eggs. (See method). Place poached eggs in a bowl of cool water until needed.
Bring salted water to the boil in a large saucepan. The water to pasta ratio is 10:1.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying-pan, sweat the onions in 1/4 cup of olive oil over a medium heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
- Add the chili flakes and garlic and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Next, add the chopped anchovies and stir to combine.
- Fry for a further 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and then add the chopped parsley. Stir well then remove frying-pan from heat and set aside.
- In a separate, dry toast the bread crumbs over a medium heat. Shake the pan around to toast the crumbs evenly and keep your eye on them as they burn easily. After about 30 seconds, remove from heat and set aside.
- Boil the pasta according to pasta instructions and drain.
- Transfer pasta to the frying pan with the anchovy mixture in it and toss well to coat. Sprinkle on a little sea salt and toss again.
- Remove poached eggs from water with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper towels.
- Divide pasta equally amongst two serving bowls. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle on bread crumbs and then top with a poached egg.
- Serve immediately.
Check out more anchovy recipes...