Let's eat: Spaghetti with garlicky bread crumbs and anchovies

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Sunday is La Festa di San Giuseppe, the principal feast day for Catholics of Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary. Deep-fried, cream-filled fritters called zeppole and fava beans are among the many Italian dishes that help mark the celebration, along with “sawdust pasta,” a traditional spaghetti dish featuring anchovies and toasted bread crumbs.

So named because it’s reminiscent of the sawdust on the floor of Joseph’s carpentry workshop, sawdust pasta is so much better than it sounds. You might think you don’t like anchovies, those small silvery fish that have been boned, salt cured and packed in oil. But this dish will prove you wrong. Paired with garlic and red pepper, the canned fish — which dissolves when you cook it — isn’t fishy at all, just full of salty flavor. Tossed with the crunchy bread crumbs, they’re addictive. And, I might add, a cheap way to feed your family, at less than $2 a can. 

I omitted the fish sauce and, in defiance of the Italian food rule of “no cheese on seafood,” sprinkled a little grated Parmesan on top. It was delicious. 

â…“ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

12 anchovies, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste

1 cup good dried bread crumbs

Black pepper and kosher salt, as needed

1 pound spaghetti

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco, or to taste

½ cup roughly chopped parsley

Lemon wedges, for serving

Grated Parmesan for serving (optional)

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add anchovies, garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in bread crumbs and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Season liberally with black pepper and a little salt if needed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package instructions; drain well, reserving some of the pasta water (about ½ cup is plenty).

In a large, preferably warmed, bowl, stir together egg yolks, fish sauce (if using), hot sauce and 2 tablespoons pasta water. Add hot pasta and toss well, adding more pasta water if the mixture looks dry or unevenly yellow. You want the yolk to evenly coat the pasta, but you don’t want it to be soupy. Add bread crumb mixture and parsley and toss well. Season with plenty of black pepper and salt to taste. Drizzle pasta with more oil just before serving and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4 to 6.

— Melissa Clark, The New York Times


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