Even if anchovies aren't part of your culinary repertoire, the way the sweetness of the onions and the saltiness of the anchovies interact, combined with the unexpected crunchiness of the bread crumbs, will make you forget that you are eating something you may not be overly fond of.
There are many people who won't touch a dish because it has anchovies as part of the mix of ingredients. Sometimes they like the dish, particularly something like salade nicoise, but will think nothing of leaving them out. They have no idea what they are missing If the spiny little things are what gets in your way, then use anchovy paste. Anchovies add a certain richness and dimension to a dish, particularly one with a red sauce. Trust me, when all is said and done, you won't be able to identify the wonderful flavor in your pasta and nobody will be the wiser. I can't tell you the times I have served anchovy flavored dishes to people who swear they can't stand them!
I have played a little with the recipe by adding three cloves of garlic to the oil before you sautee the bread crumbs and at least another can of anchovies if you are making one pound of spaghetti. Also make sure you cook the onions until they are caramelized.
This is a great fast dinner for the two during the week or a casual dinner with good friends. All you need is a green salad, a crusty baguette and an Italian Sangiovese such as Peppoli.
Yield: Makes 6 servings
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves of garlic mashed and finely chopped
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette)
3 garlic cloves smashed and minced
1/4 cup chopped dill
1 pound red onions, thinly sliced (3 cups)
1 to 2 (2-ounce) cans flat anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
1 pound bucatini or perciatelli pasta (long tubular strands)
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, add the garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes. Add the bread crumbs and sautee stirring constantly, until deep golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer bread crumbs to a bowl and toss with dill and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper.
Wipe out skillet, then cook onions with 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 1/2 cup oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Add anchovies and cook, mashing anchovies into onions, until dissolved. Or substitute about 1 tbsp of anchovy paste if you don't want to deal with the little devils.
Meanwhile, cook bucatini in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 5 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
Stir red-pepper flakes and reserved water into anchovy sauce, then add pasta and toss to combine. Add about half of bread crumbs* and toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with remaining bread crumbs.
*make sure you add the first half of the bread crumbs when you are ready to serve, otherwise they will become soggy.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine 2008