Garlicky Pantry Pasta. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: Henri Hollis
Photo: Henri Hollis

Anchovies, garlic and Parmesan form magical pantry pasta

We have always eaten a lot of pasta in my house. It’s a great way to use up fridge scraps, and is perfect for those nights when we arrive home late from work and can’t manage much more than boiling a pot of water. Our pasta consumption has only gone up while sheltering in place.

Although some nights I do attempt to create a balanced, healthier pasta dinner by cooking more vegetables than pasta, adding a salad or using whole wheat pasta, most of the time, I want something like the recipe below. Pasta with lots of olive oil, extra carbs (hello, toasted breadcrumbs), plenty of Parmesan, and the one-two punch of garlic and anchovies. Red pepper flakes are optional, but, in my opinion, the anchovies are not.

I’m not going to say that you can’t taste them (you can), but the flavor of the anchovies here is not fishy. When combined with the Parmesan cheese, the anchovies form a strong undercurrent of umami that you cannot get from the cheese alone. (There’s chemistry going on here.) If you’re nervous about it, use three instead of my preferred six anchovies in the dish.

The secret to pulling together any simple pasta dish like this one is to use some of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy sauce. Add it to the skillet with the pasta, garlic-anchovy mix, and olive oil, bring to a simmer, and watch the heat transform otherwise disparate ingredients into an emulsified sauce. There’s more science involved here, too, but it’s also fine to just call it magic.

Garlicky Pantry Pasta. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC

Garlicky Pantry Pasta

Garlicky Pantry Pasta
  • Salt
  • 1 pound dried pasta, preferably long noodles, such as spaghetti or linguine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the sauce
  • 1 cup panko or other dried breadcrumbs
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 to 6 anchovy fillets, drained
  • Large pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until just al dente, about 7 to 9 minutes. Use a heatproof measuring cup to scoop 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, coat a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven with olive oil and place over medium-low heat. When the oil shimmers, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
  • Coat the skillet with another, this time generous, layer of olive oil and return to medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy fillets and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is tender and the anchovies dissolve into the oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pepper flakes, if using.
  • Add the cooked pasta and 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet. Bring the pasta water to a boil over medium heat, increasing the heat if needed, and cook, stirring constantly with tongs, until the pasta water forms a thick sauce around the pasta, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick for your liking, add additional pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to loosen it. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Top with the breadcrumbs. Serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table if desired. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 4) 654 calories (percent of calories from fat, 27), 22 grams protein, 96 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 19 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 13 milligrams cholesterol, 692 milligrams sodium.

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Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition

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