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Spaghetti with Anchovies

spaghetti with fresh anchovies recipe

Photo by Elise Bauer

This is my version of a classic Sicilian recipe, pasta con sarde, which, as you may have guessed, normally uses fresh sardines. Anchovies work better for this, I think, because they are smaller and so work well as a topper for a pasta dish. Putting sardines on top of a plate of pasta is mildly off-putting because they will cover it: It’s like those salads with a cut-up steak on top of them, which are neither a salad nor a steak entree.

spaghetti with fresh anchovies

The keys to this dish are super-fresh anchovies, good olive oil and the bottarga. You can order this salted, cured fish roe from my friend Scott (he runs the blog Sausage Debauchery) or make it yourself it you are so inclined. I use shad roe here, but mullet roe is traditional.

Serves 4.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

  • 20 fresh anchovies, cleaned and lightly sprinkled with salt
  • flour for dredging
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 2 tablespoons dried barberries or dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup minced fennel fronds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 shot of ouzo
  • Bottarga for grating

Heat a large frying pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the olive oil, turn the heat down to medium-high and heat for another minute.

Begin cooking the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water; the water should taste like the sea.

Dredge the anchovies in flour, shake off the excess and fry in the oil until golden brown. They will not need more then 2 minutes per side for this, and probably less than that. Set fried anchovies aside on a paper towel to drain.

Saute the shallots until browned, adding the pine nuts and barberries or craisins halfway through. Add the teaspoon salt, then add 1/2 the fennel fronds and the shot of ouzo. Cook or flame off the alcohol and toss to combine. Add a little pasta water if it’s too thick.

Toss this sauce with the cooked, drained pasta and plate. Arrange the anchovies on top of the pasta, grate some bottarga over it all, then garnish with the remaining fennel fronds. Serve at once.

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4 responses to “Spaghetti with Anchovies”

  1. Kindred spirit

    Amazing! I have been playing with the idea of making my own salted “anchovies” with some of the baitfish found here off North Carolina.
    I think silversides would be a good local substitute for anchovies and cigar minnows might work as a fresh alternative to sardines. Now, instead of curing and packing them, I’ll have my bait fresh. Thanks.

  2. Ian

    You are a super-fico for even knowing this recipe. Who the heck keeps barberries? Even though I had to sub like 6 of the ingredients, it was still great. For the record, toasted pecans, wolfberries and chervil-infused grappa works, and i say fishy breadcrumbs are the poor man’s bottarga. must revisit this when i have proper ouzo etc. but already it’s sublime.

  3. Will

    think i’m gonna give this one a go with some lake superior smelt…..

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