The magic of garlic and chili together in a skillet is enough to build a hundred pastas on. In fact, I'm willing to try almost anything that improvises on this marvelous combination, especially when the humble anchovy is added to the mix. Like in this Orecchiette with Broccoli I made a few weeks ago, the anchovy takes the already spicy and nutty concoction and adds a deep roundness, as the little fillets seem to melt into the olive oil and disappear completely. Not fishy or overly strong, they simply make everything taste better.
So when I was looking over an old New York Times article from Mark Bittman about quick ways to cook dinner, this line stuck out: "A Roman classic: slivered garlic, with six or so anchovy fillets and a dried hot chili or two. Dress pasta with this." Maybe the garlic/chili/anchovy combination was not only a good start to a pasta, but good enough all on its own.
I made sure to get some good-quality anchovies and fancy bronze-die pasta, and dinner came together as soon as my pasta finished cooking. It was a subtle dish, to be sure, and I was glad I splurged on the pasta, because it's the most important taste in the dish.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, slivered
- 6-8 anchovy fillets in olive oil, roughly chopped
- 2 dried red chilis, or 1 good pinch red pepper flakes
- 4 ounces good-quality spaghetti
Bring a pot of salty water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving some pasta cooking water.
In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili and cook until the garlic is fragrant and soft, 1-2 minutes.
Add the anchovy fillets and mash them into the olive oil until they melt. Continue cooking until the garlic is quite soft and just beginning to turn golden, but not yet brown. Remove the red chilies if you used them.
Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat in the sauce. Add a little pasta cooking water and continue stirring to create a sauce with the olive oil. Serve immediately.