Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pasta with broccoli and ... anchovies

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 Pasta with broccoli and ... anchovies If you love anchovies, you'll probably love this dish. If you think you hate anchovies, you might be pleasantly surprised.
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Pasta with broccoli and ... anchovies

Utter the word "anchovies," and watch the action as everyone in the room moves quickly to one end or the other.

More than almost any other ingredient, the humble anchovy divides otherwise friendly folks into warring camps: Those who can't get enough of them and who'll stand happily over the sink eating them right out of the can; and those who are truly grossed out by those vile, hairy, disgusting little things.

If you're in the love-'em camp, I think you'll be smitten by today's featured recipe, a quick and simple pasta dinner that elevates broccoli with a simple sauce of olive oil, lots of garlic and ... gasp! ... a whole can of anchovies.

If you think you hate anchovies, you might be pleasantly surprised if you can somehow find the strength to give this recipe a try. Note well that you'll find no evidence of hairy little fish in the finished dish, and only the most haunting scent of the sea in a rich, salty flavor.

The recipe comes from Rome (I made this modified version from an online excerpt from the cookbook Roma: Authentic Recipes from In and Around the Eternal City, by Julia Della Croce), where dried fish have been used as a condiment for a mighty long time, perhaps ever since a pungent fish sauce called garum was all the rage in Caesar's days.

It's a quick and simple dish: A bunch of broccoli, a handful of garlic, a can of anchovies and pasta and you're good to go. Give it a try ... and if you do, let me know what you thought. Particularly if it makes you an anchovy convert.


(Serves two)

2 "trees" fresh broccoli, about 1 pound (240g)
1-2 large cloves garlic
2-ounce (56g) can anchovies packed flat in olive oil
Dried red-pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 ounces mezze rigatoni, rigatoni, penne or similar short pasta


1. Rinse the broccoli and cut it into bite-size florets. If you're feeling thrifty, you can peel and slice the "trunk" into bite-size pieces, too, although using florets only makes for an attractive presentation.

2. Peel the garlic and mince it fine. Chop the anchovies fine, discarding any excess oil.

3. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat and gently cook the minced garlic with a small shake of dried red-pepper flakes (just enough for an accent; you don't want a fiery dish) until the garlic turns translucent and aromatic. Stir in the chopped anchovies and continue poaching gently for a few minutes, stirring until the anchovies dissolve into the oil. Set aside and keep warm.

4. Meanwhile, heat a large pot full of lightly salted water and cook the broccoli and pasta together until the pasta is done; at that point the broccoli will be very soft.

5. Drain the broccoli and pasta, catching a bit of the pasta water in a measuring cup. Put the broccoli and pasta in a warm serving bowl and toss with the anchovy and garlic oil and, if necessary, a bit of the pasta water to achieve a thick saucy texture. Serve with crusty bread and a salad as a hearty side dish or main course.

MATCHING WINE: Just about any light, crisp, seafood-friendly white will work splendidly here. I chose a prickly, dry Fuzelo 2006 Vinho Verde, but a Prosecco would have made me mighty happy as well. A Verdicchio or, for regional authenticity, a Roman Frascati, would have worked well, and the broccoli might make a particularly amiable match with a "grassy" Sauvignon Blanc.

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