Pasta with Crispy Bread Crumbs, Fennel Greens, Anchovies, Capers, Raisins and Pine Nuts
Hold on to your taste buds boys and girls... I am going to take you all on a journey... back to the Old Country of Sicily... and to days gone by, when dishes like this were created by the Arabs who once ruled over my little island and left a legacy of wonderful exotic food that my Italian forefathers transformed into wonderful pasta dishes like this!
And then I come along! Born in England, living in Germany and with a very international slant when it comes to cooking, this is my variation on the theme of this favorite and classic Sicilian pasta dish. Let me show you how to make this wonderful meal in just 15 minutes- because that's all it takes! And the incredible mix of flavors takes any hard work out of the whole affair for you... they just work together and will taste fantastic to one and all- even guys who are not that keen on fish... like me!
The anchovies play an important role in this though, as they provide the main seasoning for the pasta's dressing, very much in the way that soy or fish sauce season an Asian meal without having a penetrating flavor of their own in the end result. Or at least they shouldn't do!
The other important stars of this show are the bread crumbs. So let's get the water boiling for the pasta and get busy with those in the meantime. I have described how to make "pangrattato" before, but this time I put pine nuts into the mix from the beginning too, as they also needed browning off. So- pine nuts first, 2 minutes later bread crumbs and a hint of olive oil, 2 minutes after that, parmesan cheese and 2 minutes later still, finely chopped parsley. A little salt, a little pepper and a hint of nutmeg... and the crispy bread crumbs are done!
Next, pop the pasta into the boiling water with plenty of salt and boil for 7-8 minutes. I used extra-thick Ziti this evening, but you can use whichever pasta shape you prefer. Whilst the pasta was boiling, I popped a couple of anchovies into the frying pan, with a little chopped garlic, the capers and a tablespoon or so of tomato paste. I fried these together for 2-3 minutes, after which time the anchovies began to disintegrate and the tomato paste had blended together nicely. I then took a ladle full of the pasta water and added it to the frying pan, deglazing it, bringing up all of the good flavors from the base of the pan and transforming the tomato paste into a rudimentary but rich tasting sauce.
After the pasta had boiled for 7-8 minutes, I drained it and transferred it to the frying pan and let it continue and indeed finish cooking there. I added a good pinch of plucked fennel greens and a little dried chili, then stirred in a nice handful of raisins. I let these all cook together for a further 2-3 minutes and then added a generous sprinkle of bread crumbs... and then the pasta was ready to serve! I added a nice sprinkle of fennel greens and a few fresh and crispy crumbs and pine nuts... and enjoyed a wonderfully rich and complex meal that was as easy to make as it was amazing to enjoy! And I suggest that you all do the same!