While this lockdown is still in place I’m working on the theme of tinned fish. Previously, I pointed out how well mackerel works as a preserved, tinned product. Part of the reason for this is that it’s a particularly oily fish and it doesn’t tend to be dry when cooked. It’s also one of the most abundant fish in the ocean – especially around the british isles – so it’s sustainable. Another fish which ticks these boxes is the anchovy. Anchovies are one of the most abundant fish in the entire world. For sustainability points, they are hard to beat. They are also, of course, really really tasty.
This recipe combines two things I’ve always been very fond of: 1) pasta, and 2) bold, powerful flavours. Pasta puttanesca combines these in glorious fashion, so it’s no surprise that it makes it to my list of all time favourite pasta dishes.
Technically, this recipe isn’t really a true puttanesca (check out my previous post for a more traditional recipe). This is a bastardized version of sorts, where tomatoes have been switched for spinach. So we have a combination of spinach, anchovies and garlic, which is nothing new; these ingredients would be excellent partners to a roast leg of lamb, for example. The addition of two different types of chilli flakes, including smoky chipotle, makes for a really powerful flavour combination.
- 180g pasta, preferably rigatoni
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 1 tsp capers, chopped
- 4 fillets anchovies
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp arbol chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli flakes
- 2 tsp butter
- parmesan cheese, to serve
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Get a large pot of water boiling for the pasta. Season the water, then add the pasta, removing it when about 1 minute from being cooked. Remember to reserve the cooking water as you will need it for making the sauce.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic along with a pinch of salt. Stir once, and cook for 20 seconds before adding the chilli flakes. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Add the spinach, and stir-and-fry until wilted.
When the pasta is drained, add it to the pan with the spinach along with a ladleful of the starchy cooking liquid. Add the capers, anchovies and butter at this point, along with a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Mix everything together vigorously for a couple of minutes: the pasta will finish cooking and some of its starch will be released into the water to thicken it. Add more of the cooking water if it’s getting too thick.
Serve in bowls immediately, with grated parmesan on top.