Pasta with anchovy sauce

Apologies for the extended break from the blog – the past few months have been absolutely insane, and I think it’s safe to say I have never been so stressed out about an exam, ever! I’m horrendous with exam stress, and I actually lose my appetite (I know, shocking!) in the week before important exams.. I remember how I lost weight prior to finals, much to my surprise (because I was also consuming regular doses of chocolate). Though I regained it all with a post-exam Barcelona trip. 😛 The way it should be, haha.

I’ve still got another set of exams and a dissertation to write, but it won’t be as bad as the exam I’ve just done (I hope!). So I thought it was high time I returned to the blog and chipped away at the ridiculous backlog I have.

This pasta dish was inspired by our Florence trip a couple of years ago. I absolutely loved Florence, and it is one of my favourite European cities. The food is so simple, yet so ridiculously good. And when I think about it, a fair number of the pasta dishes I cook nowadays are inspired by what we ate in Florence.

You might think that an anchovy sauce pasta might be too salty, but on the contrary – it’s really good! Of course, you need to like anchovies to want to eat this, but trust me when I say you will love this if you’re an anchovy fan.

This is a meal that can be whipped up in 20 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight dinner. Not to mention that it uses very basic ingredients which you’re likely to have on hand anyway – canned anchovies, pasta, onions, garlic.

Oh and a little confession – the photos of this dish were taken a whole TWO YEARS ago. Told you I had a massive backlog. 😉

Pasta with anchovy sauce

  • 1 large onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
  • 30g anchovies (actual weight), chopped finely
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 whole cloves
  • pepper, to taste
  • 300g fettuccine (or other broad pasta e.g. bucatini, linguine)
  • toasted breadcrumbs or chopped parsley to serve (optional)
1. Finely chop the onions and garlic. I use my trusty mini food processor for this as it makes the onion and garlic turn into a beautiful smooth ‘paste’, which means your sauce will be smoother.
2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over low heat. Add the onions, garlic and anchovies and cook until it becomes fragrant (should take 8-10 minutes).
3. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and let the mixture cook for another minute. Taste. If the mixture seems a little salty, add the extra teaspoon of brown sugar.
4. Stir in the butter and the cloves, followed by the water. Let it simmer gently for a minute or so, and take off the heat.
5. Whilst the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water, until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid (1 cup should be enough).
6. Mix the cooked pasta with the anchovy sauce, and add the pasta cooking liquid (as needed) to lubricate the pasta.
7. Serve the pasta into a plate, sprinkle with chopped parsley or toasted breadcrumbs (optional), add pepper to taste – and eat. 

* Just a note: I wouldn’t advise using the oil from the canned anchovies, as it is usually quite salty.