Sicilian Pasta with Almonds and Anchovies is a simply lush 30 minute meal that typifies the healthy Mediterranean diet…and please don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies — just hold that thought until the end of the post 🙂
We’re going on an inexpensive dinner kick these days. Doing my taxes reminded me of how much we (I) spend on groceries and it’s ridiculous. I know I can cut it down, and this pasta is a great example of how to do it. It relies on pantry staples so you don’t have to visit the grocery store, and not visiting the grocery store means no unplanned ‘extras’ — the chips, the gorgeous raspberries, the magazine, it all ads up! This Sicilian pasta with almonds and anchovies is healthy AND saves you lots of $$. I’m also always on the lookout for meatless meals, and even though this contains a few anchovies for flavor, I consider this to be in that category.
Basically we’re talking about a pesto here, but not pesto alla genovese, which is the classic basil sauce we’re used to. Pesto is a concept that can be elaborated on in lots of delicious directions. This sauce is made by crushing almonds, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, some basil, hot red peppers, green olives, and Parmesan cheese. It’s loosened up with good extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with pepper. This recipe makes a large amount of pesto, and I used almost all of it on the pasta. The more you add, the more satisfying the meal. Just when you think you’ve added enough, add a little more, the pasta seems to almost absorb it, and it gets richer as you go. I reserve a little of the pasta cooking liquid for reheating the next day. The garnish of bright green baby basil leaves freshens up this rustic dish. For even more color scatter on a few halved cherry tomatoes.
As for anchovies, they are used in countless sauces, condiments, and familiar dishes, you are probably eating them all the time without even knowing it. If you love Korean, Vietnamese or Thai food, you’ve had ’em. If you have a bottle of Worcestershire sauce in your fridge, you’ve had ’em, and if you order a great Caesar salad when you eat out, you’ve had ’em and loved ’em. If whole anchovies don’t appeal to you I suggest buying anchovy paste, which is really convenient because you can add just a touch when you need it, and it keeps beautifully for a very long time in the fridge. I keep a tube of both anchovy and tomato paste in the door of my fridge at all times.
The pesto doesn’t look like much in itself, above, but once it combines with the hot pasta it won’t matter 😉
This recipe is slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes.
Sicilian Pasta with Almonds and Anchovies
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta
- 1/2 cup good grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup raw or roasted almonds
- 12 roasted garlic cloves or 3 raw cloves
- 2 red chili peppers stemmed and rough chopped, seeds and all (I used red jalapenos)
- 1 large handful fresh basil leaves
- 2 Tbsp anchovy paste or 4 whole anchovies
- 1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes
- a big handful pitted green olives
- olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese
- baby basil leaves
- a few olives rough chopped
- fresh cracked black pepper
- Cook the pasta just shy of the package time, you want it to be al dente.
- Meanwhile put the cheese, almonds, garlic, peppers, basil and anchovies into a food processor and pulse until well combined, about 20 pulses.
- Add the tomatoes and olives and continue pulsing until everything looks evenly chopped, about another 20 pulses.
- Add a 'glug' of olive oil and pulse once or twice more. You should have a nice, loose pesto now. Taste it and add some salt and pepper.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with lots of the pesto. You may not need all of it.
- Serve nice and hot, garnished with more cheese, baby basil leaves, a few more rough chopped olives, and lots of fresh cracked pepper.
- If you’re cooking for one or two you can store the pesto in a jar in the fridge and use it as you need it. It will keep at least a week, tightly covered.
- I use a Mezzi Rigatoni, which I like because of its smaller size. It doesn’t overpower the simple pesto.
- Black olives would be nice, too, if you don’t like green.
- Don’t skip the anchovies…they add a unique special something to the flavor that nothing else can.
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