A Satisfying Pasta Supper
This is one of those classic dishes that is much more than the sum of its parts. It makes a supremely satisfying meal at the end of a long, busy day when you would like something delicious to eat that doesn’t take too much brain power or work. Although simple, the combination of crunchy breadcrumbs and garlic with the clean, cool parsley, fiery chillies, bite of capers and lemon, and good olive oil leaves you almost startled at just how good it is.
Serves 4 as an entrée or 3 hearty eaters as a main course.
- 170ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic,1 halved, 1 very finely sliced
- 1 cup (approx 70g) breadcrumbs, grated from a stale loaf of good, country-style bread (sour-dough is great)
- Salt, for cooking pasta
- 400g spaghettini or spaghetti
- 2 anchovy fillets
- A large handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 small red chillies, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoon small capers, or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or a little more to taste
- 180g freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve, optional
- Sea salt flakes, to taste
- 3 tablespoons nice small parsley leaves, extra
The first step in this recipe is to prepare all the ingredients, so once you start cooking you can just roll along from one stage to the next. While you are doing this prep work, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over high heat.
Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the halved clove of garlic in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it’s fairly hot, remove the garlic then add the breadcrumbs and cook them, stirring constantly, until they’re golden brown and crunchy. Tip them onto a plate to cool. Wipe out the pan and set it aside.
Once the water in the pan is boiling, salt it liberally (I operate on about 3 teaspoons of salt per litre of water.) When it returns to the boil, add the spaghettini and cook until it is al dente, stirring once or twice initially to keep the strands separate.
While the spaghettini is cooking, heat the remaining olive oil in the frying pan and cook the sliced garlic gently over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic smells fragrant but has only very faintly coloured. Add the anchovy fillets and crush them with a spoon so they dissolve into the oil. Turn off the heat. When the pasta is close to ready (the best way to check is to fish a strand out and bite it), add the chopped parsley, chillies and capers to the anchovy mixture in the pan and warm them through.
Drain the spaghettini well, shaking out any excess water and add it the frying pan with the lemon juice. Give it a quick mix, then add the parmesan and sea salt. Toss everything together and add most of the small parsley leaves. Scoop the spaghettini into warm bowls and sprinkle with the crisp breadcrumbs and remaining parsley leaves. Serve with shaved or grated parmesan, if liked. Serves 4 as an entrée or 3 hearty eaters as a main course.
Rather than drag out my food processor to make these, as long as the bread is pretty dry, I find the easiest way to make the crumbs is to grate the bread on the coarse side of a box grater. You have to push it firmly against the cutting surface, but it works a treat and gives you a really good mix of crumb sizes.