This dish is sacrilege. Pissaladière is a sort of pizza, with a nest of sweet, burnished onions overlaid with a harlequin pattern of crossed anchovies and olive studs, atop a focaccia-like dough. Sicilian-style slices are for sale on the street corners of Nice, and it tastes like Nice: salty like the sea, with a touch of sweetness.
This pasta starts with multigrain spaghetti, because I think the more substantial texture more accurately recalls the chewy pissaladière dough. It also echoes the earthiness of the Provençal flavors of thyme and bay. Then, I incorporate all the flavors of pissaladière: caramelized onions reduced down to a sweet, slithery mess. Eager fillets of anchovy. Niçoise olives. Olive oil. The resulting pasta is tenderly sweet and predominantly sea-salty.
Like a mad scientist in one of my recipe-testing marathons, I made it as an experiment, and spun it around my fork as I snuck back to the fridge all day while concocting other recipes (shh...I don't like to choose favorites!). It's perfect for the warm weather, as you can eat it hot or room temperature, and goes so perfectly with a simple grilled or roasted piece of fish, steak, or even chicken. It's so light, and yet so flavorful.
So, yes, this dish is sacrilege, a deconstruction of classic South-of-France perfection. But, as we all know, sometimes the greatest pleasure comes from little sins, and Pissaladière Pasta is my tawdry choice.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 tablespoon butter, plus 1 tablespoon
- 3 yellow onions, sliced into paper-thin half moons
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 4 stems thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound multigrain spaghetti (recommended: Barilla Plus)
- 1/4 cup Niçoise olives, finely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it liberally.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, anchovy, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Season lightly with salt, and cook over medium heat until the onions are caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove the thyme stems and bay leaf and discard.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it is al dente. Reserve the pasta water.
Toss the pasta with the remaining butter and olive oil, and the onion mixture, and moisten with pasta water as needed. Top with the chopped olives, lemon zest, and some fresh thyme leaves.