Anchovy and Arugula Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs

This has got to be the pasta dish that I’ve made the most in my entire life. I can’t even remember where I got the original recipe from because I probably saw it on tv 7 or 8 years ago. I don’t have any qualms about eating anchovies straight up but there are those weird few who don’t like them. To those, I say this dish must be tried. The anchovies ‘melt’ on contact with the hot pan and become this delicious ‘sauce’ that enrobes the pasta. Magnificent.

Typically, I top this with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino. But last night when I made this, my cheese was missing. I can honestly say I have no idea where it went! I combed through the fridge but alas! So what do you do when life hands you a cheese-less refrigerator?

Breadcrumbs.

Let me walk you through the process: First thing you want to do is toast the breadcrumbs. I didn’t use fresh breadcrumbs and frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the store-bought stuff. In a hot pan, add a little oil, then the breadcrumbs. Stir them. Once they’re toasty, remove them to a plate.

Now cook your pasta. Use the long stuff – it’s better for this dish. While that’s happening, in the same pan used to toast the breadcrumbs, fry sliced garlic in olive oil (I don’t recommend chopping your garlic to death – you want slices so you taste it separately in the final dish). Add 3-4 fillets of anchovies (per person) and watch them dissolve. Now add a pinch of dried chilli/red pepper flakes. Stir.

Test your pasta for doneness (al dente, please). With the heat off the anchovy pan, add the pasta, arugula, a squeeze of lemon and black pepper. No salt – anchovies are salty enough. Toss well. Serve sprinkled with the breadcrumbs.

Forkful of Garlicky-Anchovy Goodness

I’d heard somewhere that in poorer parts of Italy, families could not afford Parmeggiano so the resourceful women would use toasted breadcrumbs instead. That said, there’s nothing ‘poor’ about this dish. Breadcrumbs are great with pasta and don’t necessarily have to be a substitute for cheese. I loved that the breadcrumbs added a nice crunch. This is good enough to eat cold and makes great leftovers.

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