Sunday, December 27, 2009

Linguine with Garlic and Breadcrumbs...

I had to be sneaky when buying an ingredient for tonight's dinner, Linguine with Garlic and Breadcrumbs. It sure sounds innocent enough, but I know Jeff would have thrown down the veto stamp if he knew about the tin of anchovy fillets it called for. Thankfully, he was too enamored sifting through the Christmas clearance that I checked out before he knew about the dirty little secret in the cart!

You'll want to make sure all the ingredients are prepped and ready as once you get this started, it will be ready to eat in no time! Using a single pot for the whole dish, the first job was to get the thin linguine pasta prepared - be sure to use the shortest cooking time listed on your box as you want to keep the pasta al dente. Even if you like your pasta without a bite in the center, you'll be adding the pasta back into the pot to warm through with the sauce, so it will have more contact with heat.

After draining the pasta, the same pot was put back on the heat, with a couple spoonfuls of the oil from the tin of anchovies and three cloves worth of minced garlic inside. If you don't have enough oil or are concerned that you'll end up with too much anchovy flavor, replace that oil with quality extra-virgin oil. When your nose catches a whiff of garlic, it's time to add in several anchovy fillets, which thankfully melted into the oil in just a few seconds. Since this was our first experience working with the little buggers, I decided to hold back and only add in six, but if you're more accustomed, eight or ten would certainly be appropriate. I imagine one could also use the paste version if you already have it - start out with a tablespoon or so.

Now that the anchovies have almost completely dissolved, the pasta was tossed back into the pot, along with fresh grated lemon zest and enough pasta cooking liquid to create a thin sauce that allows the pasta to move freely without being soupy. Set aside a full cup of the cooking liquid, but you may not use it all - we ended up adding just about three-quarters worth. Once seasoned and plated, there was just one more ingredient to add contrasting texture - toasted breadcrumbs!

I was admittedly nervous as Jeff had no idea just what was hiding in his plate of pasta and I think he knew something was afoot when I kept looking to see his reaction. His first couple bites resulted in an eyebrow raise, then use of his fork to move the pasta around to see if he could see what was different. He said "Alright, what did you do? I can pick out the lemon and ample use of garlic, but I can't place this saltiness that is kind of nutty and I don't see any nuts!". I said "Just keep eating and tell me if you can figure it out.".

He did, and in fact his plate ended up completely clean... so I figured it was time to to let him in. "Hee hee! You just devoured little fishes! Yep, there were anchovies in that plate-o-pasta.". And what did I get in return? "Oh, really? Neat! When can we do that again?".

I'm sorry... what? Who are you? I couldn't believe it! I figured he wouldn't have taken it so well, but darn it all if he was pleasantly surprised. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails!

Oh, don't get me wrong as this opens up a whole new field and I'm happy about that, but I can't help feeling a little satisfying evil when I get a new ingredient past him that he is certain he doesn't like. Oh well - on the table in probably under 20 minutes, I guess I can see us making this pantry-staple dish now (well, I guess if you keep anchovies handy...) on hectic weeknights when we just don't have the time or energy to do anything more elaborate.


  1. I love it when I'm able to sneak something into a recipe without anyone knowing. It makes me crazy when someone won't eat something if they know a particular ingredient is included. My daughter hates olives and last week I used them in a recipe where they were finely chopped and added to a sauce. I'm sure their part was to add salty richness to the recipe so I wasn't too concerned that she'd notice. I was right, she had no idea. This linguine looks fabulous!

  2. I love anchovies - welcome to a whole new world with little fishies. Try them in a tapenade sometime - mmm - especially if you bake the tapenade into a bread/crust. I ate something like that in Italy and I have never forgotten it!

  3. my ex used to say he couldn't eat mushrooms, but would order this incredible chicken dish, loaded with mushrooms. Now, come on! The essence is in every bite...but I would happily devour all the mushrooms from his dish, while nodding that wasn't it too bad he was allergic?

  4. This recipe looks like something we'd love but I've searched for anchovies in my local grocery stores but have never found them. What section does your store keep them in?

  5. are so sneaky..that was such a cute way you wrote your if i could only do that with my kids!! i have to admit though, i would not like to have anchovies snuck into my food...HAHA but i do like ceasar salads and i know that they put them in that!

  6. I live in Italy and we make this dish. Anchovies come in handy in many dishes to add salt and taste.

  7. My mom does this to dad all the time. But, she rarely tells him about it. Despite him loving the food, if he knew what was in it he wouldn't eat it ever again. He's a bit stubborn. :) Good on you for widening his food horizon.

  8. Mags - Good trick!

    Josie - That does sound good!

    Sue - Isn't that funny!

    AJ - We found them on the top shelf above olives and the like.

    Julie - Thanks!

    Anon - Good to hear!

    Melanie - We're trying!