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Anchovy paste (Recipe: Sicilian-style spaghetti)


When a recipe calls for anchovies, do you wrinkle your nose, give a little shudder, and quickly skip to the next page in the cookbook?

Or, do you love anchovies, but always end up with half a can hiding in the back of the fridge, turning into another life form altogether by the time you remember it's there?

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to anchovy paste in a tube.

Anchovies are small silver fish, 5-8 inches long, native to the Mediterranean and popular in the cuisines of that region. A member of the herring family, anchovies are sold whole, packed in salt, or filleted and canned in olive oil. After the tin is opened, anchovy fillets, even when stored in an airtight container, won't last more than a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Anchovy paste is anchovy fillets that have been ground to a tomato-paste consistency, and blended with salt and a small bit of sugar. One half teaspoon of anchovy paste equals two anchovy fillets from a tin. The paste is slightly saltier, so be sure to adjust the salt called for in your recipe. Once opened, the tube should be stored in the refrigerator, where it will happily sit for up to a year.

Anchovies' main contribution to cuisine is a robust saltiness. Anchovy paste gives you all of that taste, but without the little bits of skin and bone, all edible and yet so fish-like, that come with anchovy fillets.

Especially for sauces, vegetables and Caesar salad dressing, anchovy paste is a wonderful convenience food -- with none of the eeewwwwww of those little fishes.

Sicilian-style spaghetti

Adapted from Tyler's Ultimate, by Tyler Florence, the original recipe calls for roasted cauliflower, which is my very least favorite vegetable, and anchovy fillets. I think turkey meatballs might be a nice addition. Serves 4.


Kosher salt
1 large bunch of broccoli, stems trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes
1/2 cup panko
Fresh black pepper
1 lb spaghetti
2-3 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

Put the broccoli into a sauté pan with half of the olive oil, and the anchovy paste. Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot. Add 1/4 cup water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and steam the broccoli for about 5 minutes until just tender; uncover and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the broccoli browns in the oil. Add the raisins and pine nuts and toss just to warm them through. Take the pan off the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. On a baking sheet, drizzle the panko with 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the crumbs with the oil and spread out in an even layer; bake until lightly browned and crunchy, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, get your spaghetti cooking; stir to separate the strands and cook for 8-9 minutes, until al dente.

You're almost finished now. Drain the spaghetti and dump it into a bowl. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and toss. Dump the broccoli mixture over the spaghetti, add the parsley and lemon juice, and fold it all together. Divide among 4 plates. Dust with the toasted panko and the cheese, and serve.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Caesar dip
Spicy peanut sauce

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Nice! This is something I may even brush my teeth with in the morning. :)

I got some anchovy paste from a blog friend and I have not been sure what to do with it - this recipe sounds really interesting. Thanks for the inspiration.

yes o yes. I always forget the tins, or else J eats them and when I reach for them they aren´t there. the paste is perfect for cooking.

I think this would be great simply with pasta, anchovies, capers and sundried tomates/fresh tomatoes? For some reason, I can't picture raisons, anchovies and broccoli living in harmoney. Perhaps I am strangely small-minded.


What do you think about the shelf life of jarred anchovies (once opened)? I've had an open jar in the fridge for several months and it seems fine . . . but one worries.

This sounds fantastic. Right into the del.icio.us cookbook! Once I finally discovered anchovy paste I couldn't imagine why I hadn't tried it sooner. Thanks for featuring the cauliflower recipe; reminds me that I need to make it again!

Andy, hah! If you do, you will not be kissed....

Meeta, I'm always impressed with how many great products come in tubes in Europe -- the delis seem to be full of them. Tuna, mayonnaise, paté, tomato paste. I always bring home something new from my travels.

Lobster, I'm the worst about things that get forgotten in the back of the fridge.

B, remember that the anchovies or anchovy paste will disintegrate into the sauce, and all you'll taste is saltiness. Pasta with tomatoes, capers and anchovies does sound really delicious, too.

Maria, if the anchovies are completely preserved (i.e., covered with oil or salt), and not in a tin but in a jar, they probably will be fine for a few months. You should be able to tell by the appearance and the smell, but if not, be brave and take a small taste and you'll know right away. In a tin, they really won't last more than a few weeks.

Kalyn, I agree -- how did we ever live without this? (and with tomato paste in a tube, too)

I've been adding anchovy paste to red sauces for years. Cured anchovies are a source of MSG (which is the taste known as umami) so it's not the saltiness so much as the addition of greater savor that makes it such an astounding addition to a sauce.

My hubby will not eat whole anchovies but if it is grounded up , he will. So this anchovy paste will be a godsend! I'd eat them whole on my Caesar Salad!

What an interesting take on one of my favorites. Sounds delicious.

How did you know I shudder at the thought of using anchovies!? The paste makes me shudder too, but perhaps it'd be more subtle and easier to use...

Kevin, thanks so much for added information. I'm not quite sure why I get a reaction to MSG but not to anchovies. I never connected the two.

Veron, I'm always happy to find a way to get hubby to eat something you like, but he doesn't (and vice versa)!

Kelly, anchovy paste is very versatile stuff.

Hillary, I'm the same way, that's how I know...

Anchovy stuffed olives are a staple in my pantry... as are anchovies, but mon mari won't let me use them. He has to bring them back from Andorra. Fortunately, I can find the paste here in France.
I do not shudder and turn the page!

I am not a fan of the anchovy eaten straight and would never think of, say, ordering an anchovy pizza, but I love minced anchovies in a sauce and use them frequently. I would describe anchovy as not only adding a saltiness but also a deepening of flavor.

I've never used anchovy paste but I'll have to check it out. What to do with the anchovies left in the tin is always a question -- anchovy paste would deal with it nicely.

Anchovies are that kind of ingredient that if you don't tell people what it is, they often don't know what they are eating, but love it! I'm a salt fanatic, so I'm going to look for this - I love the idea of a paste!

I like the 3 little guys at the top of the anchovie paste and "Mangiar Bene", aren't they great? BTW...your husband sounds like a lucky guy!

The asian/chinese anchovies are all different from this, I think (only similar is...they are silver). I'm talking about Ikan Billis.
We usually buy them dried, then use them to flavor up when boiling soups. They are also good when fried as a spicy condiment.

First: I love anchovies, paste or fish form.
Second: Look at that packaging!! Man! Even if I hated anchovies I would totally buy that stuff for the amazing graphics. I have to find a tube of that now! The beautiful fish, the funny dwarves? Sooooooo cool! Where did you get it?

Love, love, love anchovies! If you do buy fillets you can take whole fillets in a jar, roll them up, and freeze them individually. This way they last a little longer. :)

Katie, I'm guessing you must have a wonderful selection of anchovies and anchovy products available in France. Lucky you!

Julie, it's that umami that Kevin wrote about in an earlier comment -- the rich flavor. I'm the same as you -- not a huge fan of anchovy, but I love the flavor. I hope you'll find the paste in your market; it's really a good solution.

TW, agreed. Some cooking secrets are better kept....

Meg, aren't they adorable?!

Tigerfish, I've never used the Chinese anchovies, but perhaps I've eaten them in a restaurant dish when we've traveled in Asia. They do sound quite different from the Mediterranean anchovy.

Ann, here's the link:

Amy, thanks so much for the tip -- I didn't know you could freeze them.

We have a lot of stinkin' pastes in Asian cooking, so i fell in love with anchovy paste instantly. I made this simple but special pasta dish for my (now ex-) Italian boyfriend's family when I visited them (near Bari) and they were impressed. They were trying to guess the secret ingredient! :-) I should post that recipe on my blog.

I LOVE anchovies. They are just marvelous in lifting the flavor of a dish. I use them--but never tell people that I put them in a dish. Then they enjoy eating it. That recipe looks fabulous and I have to fix it!!!!

Nora, if you do post, please let us know the link. And an Italian family that didn't recognize anchovies? Hmmmm.

Sher, this would be a wonderful addition to your huge repertoire of pasta dishes. (I never tell people when I use this paste, either.)

This spaghetti with anchovy paste sure sounds great & pleasing to the palate Lydia!

I love the wrapping!

Valentina, I love anchovy-rich sauces with pasta -- such a natural combination.

Bea, I love it, too!

Never met a stinky fish that I didn't love, but just the same I do love the convenience of "the tube". I squirt it with abandon- this sounds great, even with the cauliflower!

I know I'll go crazy with this stuff! Love anchovy, fresh, in oil, or paste... please all swim into my big mouth :O

I was introduced to anchovies by an Italian friend/chef of mine a few years ago & have used anchovies in many recipes especially in the paste form. I like it in puttanesca sauce, mixed in a marinade for lamb, grilled vegetables especially broccoli & cauliflower. Anchovies melt away in the pan so it's not as if you're likely to get a chunk of anchovy to chew on if that's your worry. I've left anchovies in olive oil for a few months in the fridge & so long as they are coated in oil, they won't dry out or go off. Cheers!

Callipygia, squirting with abandon sounds so delightful! I'm sure the cauliflower version of this recipe would be delicious to someone who likes cauliflower -- which, sadly, is not me!

Gattina, hope you can find this in your local market and enjoy cooking with it in your new kitchen.

CC, anchovies in a marinade for lamb sounds so intriguing. I will have to try that.

Old jars of anchovies in the fridge are a source of friction in our kitchen, I'm all for tossing but my wife thinks they are still perfectly good, so I do the sneaky thing and wait till she's not looking and bin them; don't tell my secret now. I can highly recommend for a change from garlic bread, using your anchovy paste to make anchovy bread - it's rather good.

Neil, I'll definitely have to try anchovy bread. And, by the way, I don't think you're the only one doing battle over leftover tins of anchovies in the fridge....

We get anchovies in small jars, and they are so jam packed they do keep for ages, but I like the idea of paste, and easier to get out of the tube too! :)

Kelly-Jane, it's just the tins that won't keep. The jars should be fine as long as there's enough oil or salt. The paste is super-easy, though.

ok....this pasta...is a traditional recepy from my hometown Palermo, so please please don't add parmigiano cheese on top of it!!! there's no parmigiano cheese in the recepy, everyone in palermo could "die" if you put parmigiano on this recepy....and please don't put lemon juice (where did you get this recepy?) and parsley it will ruin everything.
its not your fault maybe you've read a recepy which is not exaclty the traditional one, i suggest you also not to toast the pine nuts, they ve such a delicate flavour that i fear it will get to "burny" if you let them on the pan for too long.
I suggest you (if you can find them somewhere) instead of spaghetti to use "bucatini" or "maccheroncini", they do have an "hole" in them and they will make everythin more tasty.
The original sicilian name is "pasta chi broccoli arriminati", broccoli its the same word (its an italian word of course) and arriminati stands for "stirred in a pot".
i hope i won't sound too boring but i think you can appreciate some tips from a sicilian guy.
take care

Michele, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for your suggestions about this recipe (it came, for the most part, from a cookbook written by one of our Food Network TV star chefs -- I hope he's reading this!). I think this is his interpretation of the classic recipe you're describing, and clearly he's played a bit fast and loose with the traditional recipe. I find that many American recipes do use cheese on fish (I'm assuming that it's the anchovies in this dish that make parmigiano a no-no?), and that it Italy of course we would never be offered cheese on a fish dish. Now, of course, I want to go and try to make this dish using the original recipe as you describe it! Thank you so much.

aw...i'm happy you read my comment in the right mood/attitude, i find often recipes that pretend to be "original" italian and then i've never heard of them....
cookin its not a religion but if i'd do a chinese dish and change it, i'd be willin to underline that "Its my way to do it", so i'm really happy you're the kind of person who's curious about food and not only eager to eat it!
you know...i read a lot of ".....parmigiana"...like chicken parmigiana for instance...and believe me we don't eat that kind of stuff, again i'm not against mix things find new way but i wont say its a tipical italian dish, talkin about parmigiana the only one i know its italian (and sicilian to be more precise) its the one made up of fried aubergine+basilico+tomato sauce and parmesan cheese+mozzarella.

speakin about "broccoli arriminati" (the recipe of your post), parmesan its not good cause it ruin the taste of broccoli and raisin and pine nuts which is a delicious yet fragile balance, and yes we don't ever use cheese on dish fish (cheese...i love it, but on fish it can be misleading...you know like kissing a girl and findin its a transvestite, nothin against them but if i'm flirtin with a girl its a girl i will be kissing...and cheese will cover fish flavour and smell).
for your recipe (broccoli) you can try another way of eatin it, after you're done with mixin pasta and the "sauce" you can put everythin in a pot (i mean those ceramic thing you use for lasagne) and cover with panko (pan grattato) and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes (if you do it this way, leave pasta a lil more wet and not too cooked and have your sauce to be more liquid...so the whole won't be too dry at the end).
all the best
(palermo, sicily)

Michele, can you hear me laughing?! Now whenever I see cheese on fish I will think of kissing a transvestite! Seriously -- cooking is about experimentation and adaptation, but it's always good to start from the traditional and work your way out. It sounds like you are a wonderful and dedicated cook -- you must promise to cook for me if I ever visit Palermo. I do post my own version or Americanized versions of Italian dishes from time to time, so please keep reminding us of the true roots of our Italian cooking. One of my favorite things about readers of The Perfect Pantry is their appetite for learning!

ok...so we're on the same road with cooking, me too i like to mix/experiment things, but if you go for the root...its the root leadin your way.
i will look after you and ligth your way...when i see you're walkin blindfold.
but i will tell you if i like your versions....versions are good till the point they don't betray the meaning of the original recipe, i understand though when its impossible to find the "perfect" ingredients or when you're in the mood of "i'll show you how i do ..... my way".

I'll cook for you when you'll come in sicily and show you places where you'll find dishes you'd love.

Michele, thank you -- for guidance in the kitchen and the offer of a place at the table if I'm in your neighborhood!

I love the convenience of anchovy paste. Also have found Hungarian pepper paste, vegetable paste and of course tomato paste. Keep them all in the fridge for added depth of flavor in many different things. Umami is the flavor some describe as savory and a just bit of anchovy paste like a bit of fish sauce will enhance the flavor of many things without necessarily imparting a fish taste.

I had a recent post on umami, stop by...

The Leather District Gourmet

Jacqueline, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Sounds like you have a pretty perfect pantry going, with all of your different pastes. I'll stop by and visit The Leather District (I used to work down there, in the late 1970s!).

I think anchovies come in the same territory as the notorious "tuyo" (dried herring) of the Philippines. A few years back when I was still leaving in an apartment, I fried a few pieces that were given to me by a friend who just came back from the Philippines for a visit. My neighbor knocked on my door and complained to me!!! "What is the awful f..king smell?' he thundered! So, as much as I love my native foods, I don't dare even my own house now!

Lalaine, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Dried herring? Can you see me wrinkling my nose? I feel the same way about belacan (dried shrimp). And yet, the flavor is so delicious. But oh, the aroma....!

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