Two head-turning delicious things you quickly learn about pasta when traveling in Italy is that al dente really does mean “rather toothy,” and secondly some of the simplest dishes will bring back the strongest memories of deliciousness, or the once mythical fifth taste umami, as chefs now like to call it.
This recipe from The New Mediterranean Jewish Table reminds me of several meals I recently had with a Jewish family in Rome. Heaping plates of pasta reached the table dressed only with a half-dozen or so ingredients (half of which are “givens” such as olive oil, garlic, and freshly ground black pepper). This recipe is interesting not only because of its briny intense flavor but because it contains no cheese. Another key: Italians coat their pasta with a sauce...and seldom if ever simply pour it over the top. This allows every strand of spaghetti to become imbued with flavor.
Whole Wheat Pasta with Anchovies and Garlic
From “The New Mediterranean Table…”
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed and finely chopped, or 24 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets (about one 3-ounce jar)
3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest of 1 large lemon (optional)
½ cup dried bread crumbs, toasted (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, warm the oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the anchovies and cook, stirring, until they start to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes longer.
Drain the pasta, reserving about ¼ cup of the pasta water. Raise the heat under the sauce to medium and add the pasta and water to the sauté pan. Toss and stir for 1 to 2 minutes to coat and flavor the pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with some pepper and the lemon zest and bread crumbs and serve immediately.
- “The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes For The Modern Home” by Joyce Goldstein via Amazon
- “What is Umami and does it exist?” by Jared Levan via Food Republic