My repertoire of fast satisfying dishes has grown mightily over the years as simple often just seems better. To cook easily, I rely on a low maintenance larger, but one of very good ingredients. That includes imported pasta such as Rustichella d’Abruzzo., extra-virgin olive oil, and only the longest keeping and most readily available of fresh ingredients, like garlic, onions or shallots, parsley…(and of course, eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano).
One treasure that I relied on for years were tins of spectacular Rizzoli alici (anchovies) in salsa piccante, a spicy-tomato spike oil, that a friend gave me. They made for an instant, utterly delicious sauce for spaghetti, all savory Italian umami (with not a hint of fishiness). Unable to find them since, I chased after the flavors of that elemental, poor-man’s pasta, until I’d found a way to duplicate it using good anchovies, hot pepper and garlic. It tastes like Italy.
Recipe: Spaghetti with Spicy Anchovies and Parsley
Although I love this mixture of warm spicy olive oil, garlic, melted anchovies and parsley most on pasta, it is also wonderful on practically any steamed vegetables, smashed potatoes and cooked dried beans. Along with some lemon juice, it makes a great dressing for bitter greens like dandelion and radicchio.
Bits of fresh mozzarella make a satisfying addition, if you have some on hand.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (if using spicy anchovies, use 1 tablespoon of the spicy oil from the jar along with 2 tablespoons plain EVO), with additional for finishing the sauce
10 imported anchovies preferably in hot chili olive oil, drained, finely chopped (Agostino Recca is a reliable, readily available brand)
1 half-inch piece dried hot chile pepper, seeded and crumbled OR ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 small garlic clove, minced or grated on a microplane grater
6 to 8 ounces imported spaghetti
3/4 -1 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese or bocconcini, diced (optional)
Place a large pot of water on high heat to boil.
In a small skillet, combine the oil, anchovies, garlic and chile if using. Warm over very low heat, stirring and mashing the anchovies against the pan, until they just begin to sizzle and have fallen apart, and the garlic is soft. Turn off the heat.
Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook until al dente. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and stir a few tablespoons into the anchovy mixture. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour over the anchovy sauce, parsley and mozzarella. Toss well to coat. Place the pot over moderate heat and toss for a couple of minutes so the pasta can absorb the flavors, adding more water as necessary to keep the pasta lightly moist and slick.
Serve at once in warm shallow bowls (though the pasta gets better as it cools slightly).