Thursday, 8 October 2009

Onion & Anchovy Pasta


This is probably one of the dishes I cook most often. I first got the recipe from the BBC Food Messageboards, apparently a Venetian dish and it frankly sounded a little bizarre. Onions, anchovies, parsley and pasta? That's it? I was dubious. After I made it though, I was completely converted.

So, when I was gifted this jar of anchovies my friend brought back from Spain, I knew this dish was destined to be in my belly in the near future. The plump anchovies were a world away from the brown paper thin ones you get in tins, and made this dish as tasty as ever. The onions, cooked ever-so-slowly over 40 or so minutes, turn into a sweet mush, while the anchovies melt into it, emulsifying it into a perfectly balanced sauce with the freshness of the parsley flecks completing it. The anchovies lend a deep umami flavour without an overly fishy flavour. I thoroughly recommend you try it, but don't try and fancify it; red onions definitely do not work, and don't be tempted to add any Parmesan to it. Spaghetti works well with this, but even better as I discovered this time, is bucatini. It has a spaghetti shape but is slightly thicker with a hole and it holds the sauce well.

Onion & Anchovy Pasta

Serves 2

3 large white onions
8 anchovies (the ones in oil, not fresh)
A large handful of fresh parsley
200gr pasta - spaghetti or bucatini
A little milk
Salt & pepper

Soak the anchovy fillets in a little milk. Slice the onions into a half moon shape thinly and chop the parsley finely. In a pan, fry the onions in some oil in a pan on the lowest heat you have, with the lid on. Stir occasionally, and if they start to stick add a splash of water. 30 minutes later, put the pasta on to cook. Add the anchovies to the onions with the milk. Stir the sauce until the anchovies disintegrate. This will probably look a bit grim, but it will emulsify into a sauce. Add a dash of milk if it gets dry. Drain the pasta, reserving 4 tbsp of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, adding the water if it needs it. Scatter in the parsley, grind over plenty of fresh pepper and add salt to taste.

22 comments:

Helen said...

Love it. Did I mention I love anchovies? ;) It is always tempting to add another ingredient with dishes like this I agree but then it never works out. The simple pasta dishes are always the best, as are the ones with anchovies. Did I mention I love anchovies?

Su-Lin said...

Oooh, definitely going to try this. We've been making something similar but minus the onions and with toasted breadcrumbs instead!

Chris said...

Glad you put them to good use! Looks fantastic.

laura said...

God I'm hungry...

The Curious Cat said...

This sounds divine! I'm so making this the next chance I get. It seems to be anchovy central at the mo -another blogger bought fresh anchovys and battered them - see here, you might also like: http://helengraves.co.uk/2009/10/deep-fried-anchovies-with-chilli-preserved-lime-mayo/comment-page-1/#comment-18744 This sounded wicked too. And the word umami - I've come across it a lot recently but it is a new one to me! Wonder where it comes from - is it japanese do you know? Thanks for sharing this - I'm rather excited!xxx

Nora said...

Nigella has this recipe in 'Feast' and I am addicted to it! It's so easy and so delicious.

Kavey said...

ooh thank you. I've seen you tweet about this more than once and been meaning to try it. this should poke me into doing so! :)

Ollie said...

I've cooked a version of this before at your recommendation - it's divine. Bucatini is such an underrated pasta shape too.

foodrambler said...

I've never tried Bucatini - new pasta shapes are always exciting! This recipe sounds so good - looking forward to trying it.

Aromy said...

I think I'll make this for lunch! I just received some nice Spanish anchovies from the visiting in-laws. =)

canelvr said...

This looks delicious, I'm definitely going to try it soon.

Sandra said...

Yum, this is one of my fave and mega easy dishes to make. Jamie O has a different (tangy and chilly) take on this too, which also takes super yum - calling for a little garlic, lemon juice (so no milk/onions/parsley), olives and 2 small dried chillies and a sprinkling of pangrita.

pigpigscorner said...

oh wow, caramelised onions and anchovies..delicious, definitely trying this!

Lizzie said...

Helen - yeah, once or twice I think :)

Su-Lin - I keep meaning to try a breadcrumb pasta combo.

Chris - they were lovely, thanks so much.

Laura - glad to have inspired hunger.

Curious Cat - Umami is a Japanese word - often called the fifth flavour after salty, sweet, bitter and sour. It's to describe an intense savoury flavour, one that MSG imitates, which is naturally found in anchovies and also in Parmesan.

Nora - I didn't realise it was a Nigella recipe, I haven't got any of her books.

Kavey - it's so simple, it would be criminal not to try it.

Ollie, Canelvr & Foodrambler - Bucatini is my new favourite. It's so moreish.

Aromy - Spanish anchovies really are great - they make a good dish even better!

Sandra - that sounds like an entirely different dish to this...

Pigpig - the onions aren't really caramelised, as they don't take on any colour but cook to a mush instead, but still very delicious.

Martin said...

Just made this, as promised, absolutely brilliant, definitely one I will make again, wonderfully simple, seriously tasty!

May said...

Just saw this tweeted and sounds wonderful and love that it's so easy. Will definitely give this one a go instead of the usual aglio olio.

Nicolas said...

Great recipe!

Nicolas said...

Great recipe!

Beans said...

I just tried this after going through the link on the guardian blog... it's delicious- definitely comfort food!

LizMacau said...

I found this on WOM yesterday too, trying it tonight, sounds delicious

Very pelased to have found your blog

Cheers!
Liz

Cedwyn Aled said...

Found this recipe via another blog, forgotten which, & love it - me & my wife have had it 4 times in the last month. Many thanks

Ced, Pontypridd

Tongham Taster said...

Just cooked and eaten this recipe. Really wonderful experience. Great sweetness from the onions balanced the saltiness of the anchovies. Went down really well with a glass of dry white wine. I had a Menetou-Salon but a Sicilian White would be great as well. Thanks for this post.