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[Photograph: Lucy Schaeffer]

Dates are not the first thing I'd think to toss with spaghetti, but dried fruits like these feature prominently in Francine Segan's new cookbook, Pasta Modern. In this particular pasta, she pairs the ultra-sweet fruit with briny anchovies, savory tomato paste, and bright oranges. Segan got the idea for the sauce from an anchovy-stuffed date appetizer she tried in her travels that was dipped in a fragrant, orange-y batter. Tossed with pasta, the combination makes for an assertive dish, perfect for anyone tired of spaghetti with tomato sauce.

Why I picked this recipe: This blend of fruit and anchovy was too distinctive to pass up.

What worked: There's something innately satisfying about churning out a pasta sauce with little more than tomato paste and olive oil. The final touch of orange zest slivers added the perfect amount of bright fragrance to the otherwise rich sauce.

What didn't: Between the tomato paste, orange, and dates, I had a hard time finding the anchovy flavor. Next time, I'll add a couple more filets.

Suggested tweaks: Be sure to save quite a bit of pasta cooking water. The spaghetti and bread crumbs quickly soak up the thick sauce. I used over 1/2 a cup to loosen the sauce.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Pasta Modern to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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