Monday Night Pasta with Broccoli, Garlic, Anchovies and Chili

People, please bear with me.  I know that pasta and anchovies are controversial ingredients to be posting at the beginning of my blogging career, but trust me on this one.  It's my ultimate bowl of comfort food. Every week I ritualistically make a version of this pasta.  By Monday night we have survived the weekend, fed the masses, kept the children entertained, generally eaten like gluttons, and are exhausted.  Any weekly leftovers have been reconstituted for dinner on Sunday.  Monday is the one night of the week I can rarely be bothered to cook, and yet cannot face going out, always favouring the collapse on the couch with mindless television option.

I am fully aware that carbohydrates and gluten are the food devils of the moment, and anchovies have been known to make people run from the table. But really, this is a delicious treat worth all the carb sins, and will convert anyone into an anchovy lover (or at least a tolerator).

The whole dish is a cinch to make and is put together in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.  The anchovies are completely hidden and no one will know they are there - you will simply marvel on the wonderful background flavour.  I dare you to test out this theory.  And if you really are still not sure, you can leave out the dreaded little fish.

There are many variations of simple pasta dishes - some with or without anchovies, or chili, or cheese, or veg, and everyone seems to make theirs differently.  I have no idea how authentically Italian this recipe is.  Anna del Conte would definitely refer to it as “Britalian”.  And I make it in many permutations.  Today with broccoli, sometimes with spinach, courgettes in the summer, kale in the winter, and when the fridge is bare just with anchovies garlic and chili and a squeeze of lemon.  Other times, when I feel the need for something a bit creamier, I add goats cheese or ricotta at the end and let it melt through.  The options are really endless, but the results are the same comforting, slightly salty bowl of deliciousness.  So next time you are in need of a pick me up, move away from the chocolate, and try this.  Remember, it cooks in 10 minutes, so why not give it a go?

This recipe serves two hungry or greedy adults, depending on how you would rather define yourselves!

Spelt Fusilli with Garlic, Chili, Anchovies and Broccoli

Note:  I use spelt pasta as I love the earthy flavour of spelt. It also makes it feel marginally healthier, but feel free to make it with any short pasta that you love (I am sure in Italy there is a specific pasta shape to go with a dish like this, but as I cannot vouch for the Italian authenticity of this recipe, I honestly have no idea which shape it would be).  Of course, feel free to use gluten free pasta, although personally I have not acquired the taste for rice pasta.

Finally, I use dried pasta that takes 7-10 minutes to cook (depending on the shape), so the sauce cooks while the pasta is boiling.  If you use fresh pasta, make the sauce first.

200g (7oz) spelt fusilli, penne, or other pasta shape of your choice

2 tbsp olive oil 6 anchovy fillets in olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly or chopped

a good pinch of dried chili flakes (this can be between 1/4-1/2tsp depending on what heat you like - I usually add more like a 1/2 tsp)

250g (9oz) tenderstem broccoli, ends trimmed salt and pepper to taste

parmesan cheese to sprinkle at the end

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta

In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, anchovies and let them melt in to the oil as it slowly heats.

Once the anchovies have begun to dissolve, add garlic and chili and cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes), but do not let them get too dark or burn as they become bitter

Add broccoli and a splash of water to the pan with aromatics, cover and cook 3-5 minutes until broccoli is cooked.  Season with a little salt and pepper, although be careful not to add too much as the anchovies are quite salty.

Add a small ladle of pasta water to the broccoli, and drain and add pasta to the saute pan.

Mix everything around and divide into 2 shallow bowls.  Top with parmesan and maybe an extra grind of pepper if you like.

Dig in and enjoy.