Either loved or feared, anchovies are a staple of Italian cooking, especially along the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy’s Campania region. Called alici in Italian, these little fish are prepared in many local specialties. Laura Thayer, an American expat who lives on the Amalfi Coast, shares with My Bella Vita a traditional recipe from Amalfi for pasta with anchovies and walnuts.
This is a classic and quick Amalfi Coast recipe that you can throw together while the pasta cooks. It’s perfect for when you get home late and want to prepare something healthy and simple for dinner. The pasta finishes cooking in the sauce, which includes some of the pasta cooking water. This a technique used to reduce the amount of oil needed as well as infuse the pasta with the flavors of the sauce. (It’s a handy trick you can use with other recipes, too!) Since the anchovies essentially dissolve while cooking, you might even be surprised to find that you like them in this dish even if you don’t think you care for anchovies. Give it a shot!
>> 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
>> 1 large clove garlic, peeled and gently smashed
>> 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
>> Pinch of pepperoncino (or more to taste)
>> Parsely (to garnish)
>> 8 oil packed anchovies or 4-5 salt packed anchovies (rinsed well)
>> 250 grams (1/2 pound) linguine (or spaghetti)
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the linguine.
2. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over very low heat until the garlic is soft and has released its flavors into the oil. Press it gently into the oil, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove and discard the garlic.
3. Add the chopped walnuts and peperoncino (or omit if you don’t care for spicy food) and cook over low heat for about a minute.
4. Add the anchovies to the skillet and smash them with a wooden spoon until they break up into tiny pieces. By this point the pasta should be nearly done cooking. Take one cup of pasta water out of the pot and add about a half of it to the skillet.
5. Drain the linguine when it’s still a bit more al dente than you like and add to the skillet. Toss the pasta to mix well with the sauce and continue cooking. Add more reserved pasta water if the skillet becomes dry before the pasta has finished cooking.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.
Do you like anchovies? What’s your favorite way to prepare them?
Are you interested in a cooking tour of southern Italy? Click here to see how I can help you plan your trip.