Anchovies – an ingredient that can either lift you to supreme joy in an instant, or send you plummeting into a tunnel of discontent. It isn’t the texture that that is off-putting for most people, rather that undesirable salty-seafood taste that can exceed the fishy-tolerance threshold. This especially tends to be the case when they are used in pizzas, salads or anything toppable: whole anchovies are scattered around in plain sight and produce distinct punches of fishy flavour. With pasta or spaghetti however, they appear less obvious and their flavour is able to mix with that of the other ingredients. This dish isn’t difficult to make, and if you are cooking this for an anchovy fan, then be ready to receive plenty of smiles! What I enjoy about this dish, and cooking your own spaghetti in general, is the fact that you can add as many salads and other vegetables as needed to incorporate more definition and texture into the dish. Restaurants will typically blend in the anchovies and so leave you with what are essentially flavoured strands of spaghetti, rather than forming a pleasant compliment to the meal. I tend to make this dish once every couple of weeks (infrequently enough that it still feels like an occasional treat), most probably because its aesthetics and taste are somewhat reflective of a restaurant vibe.
Artichokes are beautiful, but rarely do I bother buying one. The thought of cutting, cleaning and cooking them seems like an arduous task for a weekday evening. Perhaps on a special occasion I would have a rethink, but for this recipe it’s a tinned affair. The golden toasted pine nuts provide an extra touch that elevates the whole dish to a new level. Pistachio nuts will also work, although no need to roast them in this case. I use jarred anchovies in olive oil, which I also pour into the pan when cooking the garlic – this provides a pleasant fragrance. If your anchovies come without oil, then simply substitute regular olive oil instead. It’s a good idea to tamp down the number of anchovies for those who are not familiar with them, particularly children. Mixed leaves are a good choice here, though occasionally I do throw in whatever greens I have in the fridge, usually spinach.
Pine Nuts 100g
Olive oil 3 tbs
Garlic crushed, peeled & finely chopped 6 cloves
Chestnut Mushrooms 250g
Anchovy Fillets 100g
Pecorino Cheese grated 120g
Mixed Green Leaves a large handful
Spring Onions chopped 2
Bring a pan of water, enough to cover pasta, to the boil with a generous pinch of salt. Continue with the other steps as you wait for this. When ready, add spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions. I usually take it out a few minutes before advised for that al dente feel.
Heat a dry skillet (or frying pan) on low heat and toast the pine nuts for a few minutes until they become golden and fragrant. Ensure you toss the nuts around thoroughly so that they colour evenly. Set aside once done.
Drizzle a large pan with oil and cook the garlic for a few minutes until vibrant. Add the mushrooms and anchovy fillets. Cook until they soften, when the anchovies will begin to become immersed in the sauce. Add artichoke pieces and cook briefly.
Transfer the spaghetti into the pan with the sauce ingredients. Mix thoroughly, including the cheese, mixed green leaves and spring onions. Season accordingly with a bit of salt and freshly cracked black pepper before serving.