17 September 2014

Tomato Anchovy Pasta

Talk to any Chinese home cook, and chances are that they will admit to having cooked a noodle soup dish to finish up leftover bits of ingredients in their refrigerator. Like fishballs, tofu, bits of mince meat, or limp and almost yellowing vegetables. I am no exception. This was a useful skill I picked up from my mum and frequently practised in my university days. 

Ed is very (sensibly) particular about not wasting food and gives me plenty of grief when he sees me throwing away anything from the refrigerator. Not that he would stop me - moldy anything is impossible to salvage - but a brief lecture would usually follow. Sometimes I resort to throwing it away secretly and hope he never notices. That works... sometimes. 

It does not help that I love cooking a variety of cuisines. This means that while I have a few lady's fingers and tomatoes left over from the Indian fish head curry dish I made the day before, I also have a few stalks of italian parsley (from making a Spanish octopus salad) or dried shrimp (from the Peranakan rempah udang last week). It would require a really creative person to come up with a dish that can combine all of them. Alas, I am no such person, but I do my best. 

This is where pasta - the Italian equivalent of the Chinese noodle - comes in. While thinking about what to cook for lunch today, I rummaged through my refrigerator for some inspiration and found a small tin of anchovy fillets - a tin I had originally intended to use on some pizza one day. A day which never came about. Combining it with the few lonely stalks of italian parsley and half box of cherry tomatoes seemed like a delicious flavour profile for a pasta dish, and it was!

I had never cooked anchovy fillets over direct heat before, since I always eat mine grilled whole on pizza, or neat if they are simply pickled instead of cured. (I really adore pickled anchovy, which can usually be found near the deli section of supermarkets. I'm salivating just thinking of it now.) So I didn't expect the cured anchovy fillets to melt into the sauce, but it made for an incredibly delicious sauce packed with the tang from the tomatoes and salty fermented flavour from the anchovy. I was very pleasantly surprised by how well all the ingredients came together, and will definitely make this again. 

Tomato Anchovy Pasta
serves two

160g dried short pasta 
(I used a mixture of casarecce and fusilli, both of which had similar cooking times.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
A 55g tin of cured anchovy
200g cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
A tablespoon of chopped italian parsley (or more, if you wish)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, keeping some of the pasta water. (Be generous with the salt. I use 1.5 teaspoons for every litre of water.)

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add sliced garlic - it should sizzle gently the moment the garlic hits the oil.  
When the edges of the garlic are turning brown, add anchovy fillets. Feel free to mash it up. When the anchovy fillets are starting to break apart, add cherry tomatoes and stir to combine. 

When cherry tomatoes have softened slightly (they should still be able to hold their shape and yield slightly to pressure), turn down the heat to low, add drained al dente pasta to the saucepan and toss until pasta is well coated in the sauce. Add reserved pasta water if necessary i.e. if the pasta seems a little dry. 

Garnish with italian parsley and serve warm. 

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