Despite the golden sunlight streaming through my window, summer has faded off into the distance and fall is here to stay. Normally I’d be in a melancholy state bemoaning the lack of dry pavement to go tearing down steep descents on Italian carbon fiber but given the interminable days of relentless heat this summer I’m happy to share my rides with some brisk precipitation and my new titanium ‘cross bike. I’ll worry about the slippery, treacherous leaves composting in situ on the streets later ….
This is possibly the simplest and most foolproof yet surprisingly palate-complex dish that will take almost no effort on your part. Don’t worry, the tangy tomatoes, zesty garlic, spicy crushed red pepper, and umami filled anchovies will have your dining companions gulping down
any tall tales of arduous culinary feats dinner like it’s about to be snatched out of their hot little hands. And yes, I said anchovies. Now before you go running off to another URL like a horde of zombies is after you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Odds are you’ve had anchovies in your favorite foods and even loved them. Can we say Caesar dressing, puttanesca, and nước mắm (fish sauce)? Yup, they’re not solely a micro-sized vehicle for salty fishiness and like any other coveted seasoning, a little goes a long way. When used in moderation, they create a depth of flavor, a savory backdrop to highlight the tang, zest, and spice of this simple, 7 ingredient sauce that will have your tastebuds clamoring for seconds or thirds in the case of my 6 foot piglet husband.
Once again, I’ve modified a recipe from Bon Appétit by cutting out 50% of the fat using a mixture of heart healthier olive oil and flavor rich butter, scaling back on the garlic because you can have too much of a good thing and the zombie hordes have no fear of all that zesty vitamin A, and swapping out canned tomatoes for fresh tomatoes from the garden although frozen or canned will taste nearly as good too. If you want a red sauce instead of an orangey one use a red tomato like Roma or San Marzano although I must say I like the sweet tang of Sungolds. And do finish the pasta in the sauce as it allows all that carby goodness to soak up those flavors you’ve been lovingly cultivating.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovies packed in olive oil (I used Talatta brand but am also partial to Merro)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
2 lbs fresh tomatoes (I used a mix of the last of the garden’s Seattle heirlooms and Sungolds)
2 tbsp butter, cut into 1/4 tbsp pieces
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
1/2 + 1 tsp sea salt or substitute 1/4 + 1/2 tsp table salt
12 oz bucatini, cavatappi, or you favorite long-ish pasta
1-2 oz shredded Parmesan, optional
Preheat oven to 425F.
Pour olive oil out into an ovenproof dish, I used a 13 x 10-inch lasagna dish. Scatter garlic and anchovies over dish. Top with tomatoes and butter. If using larger tomatoes, remove tough core where the stem attaches and quarter. This will allow them to cook faster as well as keep them from exploding. For reals. Sprinkle crushed red pepper and salt over tomatoes and bake till tomatoes are wilted and lightly browned ~30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and purée tomato mixture in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
In a large, 8-10 quart, pot bring water and 1 tsp salt to a roiling boil. Boil pasta till it is soft but too chewy to be al dente. I like to set a timer for 1 minute less than the recommended cooking time. Scoop out 1 c pasta water (I just dunk a mug straight into the pot) and set aside. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add tomato mixture to pot and simmer till pasta is al dente. Plate and serve with Parmesan if using. Makes 6 servings and burn them off with a few rides strafing through the mud all in the name of testing out those shiny new disc brakes😉