Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spaghetti with anchovy carbonara with tomato and green bean salad

I've been craving pasta a lot lately. Therefore, I've been making pasta a lot lately. I refuse to demonize food groups - I firmly believe if you keep the portions reasonable and pair with vegetables, pasta can be part of a perfectly healthy meal. Just like gorgeous crusty fresh bread and lovely roasted potatoes. Life is just not worth living without carbohydrates, y'all. 

So! Anchovies. I'd only had the crappy little fillets from a can before, and frankly, wasn't much of a fan. But I noticed anchovies have been popping up everywhere lately, with all the good little foodies extolling their salty virtues like the Second Coming. And then I learned that all anchovies are not created equal; there are oil-packed and there are salt-packed, the salted ones being described as superior in every way. I had to get my hands on some. Unfortunately, my only option was to buy a gigantic can of them for the bargain price of $17.99 at Jimmy's, but when I cracked it open and saw there are about 60 of these suckers in there, hey that's under 30 cents a fish! Some people have investment portfolios, I have investment anchovies. Apparently they can be stored for quite a long time, so I'm not worried about using them all (eventually). I gently jammed the rest of mine in a pickling jar with a little extra kosher salt and stuck it in the fridge. So far, no fridge funk. Good.

Papa, Mama, babies.
Did I mention they were delicious? I swear, people - you will have absolutely no idea this contains anchovies. You'll just think, this tastes really good! Which isn't to say you won't taste them, because you certainly will - I just don't know how to describe the taste. It's umami: the taste of tastiness. There was no fishiness whatsoever after they were cooked, not even a hint, so don't be scared by the smell when you open the can. I admit, I was nervous. But they were great! Next time I shall be bolder and use more than just one little fish per serving.

The dish is from the April issue of Food and Wine. It's quite simple on paper, but the ingredient combination absolutely sings. The oregano in particular caught me off-guard, it just hummed so beautifully with the garlic and anchovy. This is not a heavy, creamy carbonara. In fact there wasn't any sauce at all at the end, but you won't miss it. The sheer quantity of flavor imparted to the bland little noodles by just a couple of high-quality ingredients is staggering. There isn't even any cheese! Amazing.

And this is a great side. It just screams summer. I've got more gorgeous garden tomatoes than I know what to do with (this is a lie, I could probably just eat them raw by the truck load and be happy forever) and green beans are a favorite in my house. I came across this recipe in my new favorite magazine Everyday Food. The original recipe has you add chickpeas as well, and I would have if I were cooking for more people, but it was perfectly great without them.

~ 4 oz spaghetti
4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, (so, from 2 anchovies) backbone removed and fillets soaked in milk for about half an hour, then chopped (the internets abound with instructions on how to do this, but feel free to ask for clarification)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
zest of 1 lemon (zest it first, then juice it for the salad)
~ 1 tbsp fresh oregano (the oregano in my garden has nice small leaves so I didn't even chop them)
~ 3 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped and separated into 2 equal piles
good pinch of crushed red pepper
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup pasta cooking water (don't forget to pull this out before you drain the pasta!)

~ 1/2 lb of green beans
1 or 2 beautiful magnificent glorious ripe summer tomatoes, chopped
juice of the 1 lemon you zested above
~ 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
half of the parsley you chopped above
couple of tablespoons feta, crumbled

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season with kosher salt and boil your green beans for about 2 minutes, then dunk into an ice bath to cool. Cook your spaghetti in the same water approximately 1 or 2 minutes shy of the package directions. Remove about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the noodles and set aside. Dry the green beans on paper towels.

Plunk the chopped tomatoes and dried green beans into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, shallot, and parsley. Pour it over the tomatoes and green beans. It's important not to season with salt until you're about to eat, because if you do the tomatoes will give up all their water and you'll dilute the dressing and you shall burn in tomato-ruining purgatory forever. Don't tempt fate.

'Chovy time! This comes together really quickly. Whisk together the egg yolk and reserved pasta water (needless to say, don't scramble the yolk). Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add your garlic and anchovies and stir, allowing them to break down. In just a minute or two the anchovies will actually become a grainy-looking paste coating your garlic. Now add everything else - the lemon zest, oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper, the cooked spaghetti, and douse it with the yolky pasta water. Toss through and allow the yolk and pasta to finish cooking together just one more minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, some anchovies are going to be more salty than others. Plate it up, sprinkle your salad with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and the feta and enjoy.

Serves 2, takes half an hour if you know what you're doing and don't spend 20 minutes trying to work up the courage to open the can of anchovies.


  1. oohh look delish!! I wanna try and make one..

  2. You've inspired me to try anchovies! And that side dish looks totally amazing.

  3. Find the salt-packed ones! I'm gonna try this Mario Batali recipe next - its' spagetti, green olives, anchovy and red pepper flakes. Not going to tell my husband what's in it to see if he can taste it.

  4. This food is called anchovies food. Anchovies food is very nutritious food for health. I always eat this foods. Keep your informative posting. I will back again.