As we continue on with my Jamie Oliver week theme, I am seriously considering renaming this “foods I used to be scared of and now love” week. First lentils, and now anchovies. I know. Anchovies are delicious. Who knew?
Well in fact, many people knew. Like most of Italy. And a lot of France. And many other people in many other places I’m sure. However let me clarify my new love of the anchovy for a moment. I really don’t want to eat them on their own. I think they’re too fishy and strong to sit on top of a salad or pizza. Sorry to the Nicoise salad fans out there. But when you saute them in a little olive oil and garlic and watch them just melt into nothingness, that’s when they are at their finest. It’s kind of like Thai fish sauce in a way – on its own, it smells like feet. But once you’ve cooked a Thai dish with fish sauce you couldn’t imagine pad thai without it. Something about tiny fishy fish that just lend a great salty, savoury, umami quality to a dish. Like magic.
Take today’s recipe as an example. Broccoli and pasta. Sounds nice enough, but just not very exciting. And then BAM! (Apologies for the Emeril Lagasse reference, I couldn’t think of a better explosive sound.) You add some anchovies to the garlic and butter and chili flakes, let those anchovies melt away into nothingness, toss in some al dente pasta and broccoli florets, mix together and voila – you wind up, not with boring broccoli and pasta, but a fantastic dish that makes you a happy camper. Amazing isn’t it?
Maybe you don’t believe me. And that’s ok. In fairness, I think I only tried a dish with anchovies the first time because somebody made me. And we’re adults right? We don’t need anyone telling us what to eat. But if you’re a brave eater, I really encourage you to try the recipe below. After all, it’s just a simple dish of pasta and broccoli right? Nothing scary in sight!
Broccoli and Anchovy Orecchiette
- 2 large heads of broccoli
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 8 anchovy fillets
- 2-4 small dried red chillies, crumbled, to your taste
- 4 good pats of butter
- 1 lb dried orecchiette
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 good handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Using a small knife, trim round the broccoli to remove the dark green flowers from the main stalks and put them to one side. Peel the stalk, trim off the dry end and throw this away. Finely chop the stalk and put into a large pan with the garlic, anchovies, chillies and half the butter. Cover with a lid and cook slowly for 8-10 minutes while you cook your pasta in salted boiling water. This should take about the same length of time – check the package. Something I like to do that is slightly different (but better, I’d like to think) is to cook the broccoli flowers with the pasta for the last 4 minutes – this makes them soft enough to eat but leaves them with great colour and texture.
Drain the pasta and broccoli, saving a little of the cooking water, then toss into the other pan. Remove the pan from the heat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, the rest of the butter and a large handful of Parmesan. Mix well, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the pasta and make it shine. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the rest of the Parmesan.