Pot Luck Almost last Minute Dinner – 15 Minutes or So, Done

“We are eating warm bread slathered in cold butter and topped with salty anchovies, one of those three-ingredient Italian constructions- a shopping list more than a recipe- that can stop a conversation in its tracks.”
Matt Goulding,
Pasta, Pane, Vino: Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture
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It’s pot luck time over at the cooking club and I chose an easy quick pasta dish from Nigella Lawson that would be even better on a hot summer day when the gardens are bursting with big fat juicy tomatoes and fresh basil, but for now, the sweet grape and Campari tomatoes will have to do.  With just a few other ingredients we had a very pleasant dinner along with a simple Bibb lettuce salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette from Jeffrey Zakarian.  The sauce is made while you boil the water and cook the pasta…

“Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic & Almonds” is not a saucy sauce but rather a “dressing” for the pasta and while you might pass on the recipe because you turn your nose up at the thought of an anchovy never mind 6 anchovies, but honestly that is not the taste that comes through…anchovies are a wonderful “meaty umami backbone to anything you want”, far from a big bite on a slice.  I use anchovies a lot and no one ever notices, so give them a fair chance in one of your dishes, not just that well-known Caesar salad.

Every bite contains a bit of crunch from the almonds and the raisins a sweetness that works well with all of the other ingredients.

Slightly adapted, Nigella’s “Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic & Almonds” serves 6

  • 1¼ pounds fusilli (Nigella suggests fusilli lunghi, a long curly pasta, or other pasta of your choice)
  • salt for pasta water (to taste)
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes/grape/Campari
  • 6 anchovy fillets, or the equivalent of anchovy paste
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 tablespoons capers (drained)
  • ⅓ cup skinned almonds, I had slivered almonds so I used those instead, Marconas would be great
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small bunch of fresh basil (approx. 20g / 1 cup, to serve)
    Note:  For this dish, I like to warm the pasta bowls before plating and if you have the rolled anchovies with capers you can use them in this dish
  1. Put water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions, though start checking it a good 2 minutes before it’s meant to be ready.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitz until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.
  3. Just before draining the pasta, remove a cupful of pasta-cooking water and add 2 tablespoonfuls of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go.
  4. Tip the drained pasta into your warmed serving bowl. Pour and scrape the sauce on top, tossing to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it) and strew with basil leaves.