Monday, December 29, 2008

Spaghetti with garlic, anchovies and capers

After all the festivities of Christmas, I was in the mood for something clean and simple. This pasta dish has always been a favorite and you can't really get much simpler than this. Because this recipe has so few ingredients, technique is crucial in bringing out the best in the dish. And when I say technique, it's not that this dish is difficult to make. On the contrary, anyone can make this! There are just a few minor details that make a whole lot of difference in the end product.

1 lb spaghetti
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled and minced finely and uniformly (crucial point #1)
6-8 anchovy fillets
1/2 to 1 tsp. chili flakes
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup capers, drained and chopped

1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Don't forget to salt the water and make sure not to over cook the pasta. (crucial point #2)
2. Meanwhile, place olive oil, garlic, anchovies and chili flakes in a large pan. Cook over low-medium heat (crucial point #3), stirring occasionally and breaking up the anchovies as you go along. Cook until garlic if soft but not brown. The point of using low heat is to cook the garlic very slowly until it becomes sweet, soft and mellow. If you use high heat, the garlic will burn and will acquire a bitter edge to it. That's definitely not what we want for this dish!
3. When the garlic is soft, turn off the heat and mash the garlic and anchovies together with the back of a spoon or spatula. You don't need to make a homogeneous mass, but you want the flavors of the anchovies and garlic to meld together as one. (crucial point #4)
4. Add the capers at this point.
5. By this time, the pasta should be about done. Drain briefly and put the pasta into the pan with the "sauce." Toss well and make sure each strand of spaghetti is coated with garlicky goodness.

That's it. Done!

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