Spaghetti al Pomodoro con le Alici / Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Anchovies

September 9, 2023

This is a sophisticated cousin of a delightful slowly cooked tomato, garlic, olive oil and basil sauce, a crowd pleaser, that I came across whilst leafing through some older books on the food of Rome and Lazio. The anchovies give a more grown up and distinctive depth of flavour to the sauce, although, you can just taste them ever so slightly, and they melt into the sauce completely  (should you be up for a more pronounced anchovy taste just scale up the proportions).

When in season use fresh tomatoes (peeled and roughly chopped), even better if you mix two or three different varieties, preferably one of them of a slightly sour kind.

Serves 4:

  • about 800 g of fresh ripe tomatoes (peeled and roughly chopped), otherwise use tinned tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 of small fresh or dry chilli pepper (a piece about 2 cm long)
  • 8-10 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • salt to taste
  • 320 g of spaghetti (400 g if cooking for a hungry crowd)

Slightly press the garlic cloves with a knife and put them in a skillet with the chilli pepper and olive oil.

Fry gently over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Next add the anchovies and wait until they dissolve completely. Finally add the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and and cook the sauce over a moderate heat for 20-30 minutes, depending on how watery your fresh tomatoes are. Cook the sauce for a bit longer if needed. Discard the garlic and the chilli, taste the sauce and check if it requires more salt.

In the meantime bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Drop in the spaghetti and cook until al dente (according to the instructions on the packaging). Drain the pasta leaving a little bit of the water from cooking the spaghetti on the side (you may not have to use it).

Add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce and stir vigorously, add a little bit of the reserved water if needed. You could also stir in a little bit of chopped parsley if you are in a mood for it.

Serve immediately.