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.
Reprinted with permission from Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy by Francine Segan. Copyright 2013. Published by Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, an imprint of Abrams. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:Serves 4
- Active time: 25 minutes
- Total time:25 minutes
- 1/2 cup (56 g) homemade coarsely ground breadcrumbs, toasted
- Olive oil
- 1 pound (455 g) spaghetti or other long pasta, preferably Felicetti
- 4 oil-packed anchovy filets
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) white wine
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 12 dried dates, thinly sliced
- Zest of 1 orange, cut into long strips
Put the breadcrumbs in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and re-toast, stirring often, until crunchy. Set them aside on a paper towel.
Boil the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over very low heat, slowly heat ¼ cup (60 ml) oil with the anchovies, pressing the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they dissolve. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the tomato paste and dates and simmer for a few minutes.
Toss the pasta in the sauce to finish cooking it, adding a little cooking liquid as needed. Serve the pasta topped with the breadcrumbs and long strips of orange zest.