It is unfortunate that so many people won't give these tiny little flavour bombs a fair chance. They effortlessly and quickly add such intense, savory — meaty! — flavour, they should be in regular rotation in any home kitchen, and particularly with any cook who struggles to get a great dinner on the table on a busy weeknight.
That said, I get it. Downing a whole fish — even a tiny one — is a turnoff for most people.
But that's why this recipe is perfect for you. The magic of anchovies — aside, that is, from not tasting even a little bit fishy — is that when added to a hot skillet, they melt away, dissolving into a flavourful sauce reminiscent more of a steak than of the sea. And that is why they form the base of so many Italian sauces.
For this recipe, the goal was simplicity — a few simple, potent ingredients that would meld together in no time into a phenomenal sauce to toss with pasta. Try it. Give anchovies a chance and you won't regret it.
GEMILLI PASTA WITH ANCHOVIES AND BREADCRUMBS
Gemilli pasta — small twists — has a wonderful texture and does a great job of capturing the sauce in this recipe. But pasta is pasta, so use whatever shape you have or prefer.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 pound gemilli pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-ounce tin oil-packed anchovies
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coarse unseasoned breadcrumbs (such as panko)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 to 7 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain and return the pasta to the pot. Drizzle the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, toss, then cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the anchovies and saute for 5 minutes, breaking them up with a silicone spatula until they dissolve into a paste. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, then add the tomato. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato begins to break down, about 7 minutes. Season with pepper. For a thinner sauce, stir in a bit of the reserved pasta cooking water.
Uncover the pasta and, while using tongs to toss, sprinkle in the breadcrumbs and Parmesan, tossing until evenly coated. Divide the pasta between 4 serving bowls, then spoon some of the sauce into the centre of each. Top each serving with additional grated Parmesan.
Nutrition information per serving: 730 calories; 210 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 23 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 100 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 30 g protein; 900 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch