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Spaghetti with Fresh Breadcrumbs, Garlic, and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

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Serves 4

  • To learn more, read:
    The Weeknight Pantry
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 120

This is a twist on spaghetti aglio e olio, a traditional Italian pasta dish featuring garlic, olive oil, and chile. The fresh breadcrumbs soak up the spicy oil and garlic in a most delicious way. Be sure to brown the breadcrumbs well, or they’ll be soggy in the finished dish. Ciabatta breadcrumbs are best for this dish, but you can use any mild-flavored bread; leave the crusts on for the best texture. The anchovies are optional, but they bring complexity to the dish without making it taste overtly fishy.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 drained oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1-1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs (with crust), preferably from a ciabatta loaf
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 lb. dried spaghetti, spaghettini, or linguine

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spatula, until the pepper flakes are sizzling, about 5 minutes. Add the anchovies, if using, and mash them with the spatula until they begin to dissolve. Raise the heat to medium, add the breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring often, until the crumbs are deep golden, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are crisp and brown, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and season with salt to taste (if using anchovies, you may not need extra salt).

Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Immediately return the pasta to the pot over medium-low heat, add half the breadcrumb mixture and toss to combine. If necessary, add some of the reserved cooking water to moisten. Season to taste with salt. Serve sprinkled with the remaining breadcrumbs.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 710; Fat (g): fat g 34; Fat Calories (kcal): 300; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 5; Protein (g): protein g 27; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 22; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 73; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 2010; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 40; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Don't let the simplicity of this recipe fool you. It is fantastic. The anchovies are NOT optional. You can use anchovy paste from a tube if you want to simplify, but do add them. You will never taste them, but you WILL miss them, if left out. It is kind of messy on the stovetop, but well worth the clean up. My hubby likes this one so much he volunteers to do the clean up. It is great as a side dish or for meatless Mondays. And do make your own crumbs. With a food processor, nothing could be simpler. I keep a ziplock bag of them in the freezer, and add to it whenever I have extra or stale bread. Follow this recipe as written, including using a good quality olive oil, and YOU will have your own devoted followers.

From such humble ingredients, what a flavorful result with a satisfying contrast of textures. Thank God for Italy! My tweeks were not dramatic, although my weights/measurements were slightly "rounded" versions of this recipe. I used 1/4 tsp. of the pepper flakes, 24g. of chopped garlic, and .8 oz. wt. of anchovy. Within the body of the recipe, you are advised to deeply brown the crumbs in the oil, and this is mentioned in the header of the recipe as well. This was a wise move to stress this component in preparing the dish. It makes all the difference in the world. And as for the Anchovy being optional, well, not in our family....it's the Italian version of Umami!!! Truly a stunning pasta entree.

We make this recipe without breadcrumbs and it's much tastier. It seemed as though the breadcrumbs absorbed all the flavor.

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