Fettucini with Spicy Anchovy Sauce and Dill Bread Crumbs

For a lot of people, food can be divisive.  Some people like cilantro, some folks loathe it.  Olives, too, fall into the love-hate category (and then there’s Eric who loves them, but doesn’t like them cooked). I have a running list of things that friends and family members have mentioned in passing: mushrooms, green pepper, celery, truffles, white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, potent cheeses (I’m talking about you, Dad), onions (yes, even cooked), lima beans, ginger, mayonnaise, sour cream, eggs.  I’m sure I could fill at least a page if I was given some time to think about it.

I bring this up because I am not in the least bit like this.  There is nothing that I flat out won’t eat.  I do have dishes, like bone marrow or beef tongue, that I’ve tried and am not the biggest fan of.  However, if someone told me that there’s a restaurant that has the best bone marrow or tongue in the world, well, I’d give it a try.  I don’t dislike the flavor.  I’m just not impressed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from a number of people that one thing they avoid are anchovies.  I know a lot of people who don’t like fish (I’m fairly certain that these individuals just haven’t had it cooked properly), but these things freak people out more than most seafood and I really don’t understand why.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the most staunch opponent of anchovies to make a dish that includes them, but I’m pretty certain that if you served this to them without telling them what the dish contained, they might actually enjoy it (yes, I did just tell you to sneak it in their food, because I’m evil).


Fettucini with Spicy Anchovy Sauce and Dill Bread Crumbs

(slightly adapted from the April 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine via Epicurious)


3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette)

1/4 cup chopped dill

1 pound red onions, thinly sliced (3 cups)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 (2-ounce) cans flat anchovy fillets, drained and chopped

1 pound fettucini

1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes


Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook bread crumbs, stirring constantly, until deep golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer bread crumbs to a bowl and toss with dill and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper.

Wipe out skillet, then cook onions with 1/4 teaspoon salt in remaining 1/2 cup oil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until very soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Add anchovies and garlic and cook, mashing anchovies into onions, until dissolved.

Meanwhile, cook fettucini in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 5 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.

Stir red-pepper flakes and reserved water into anchovy sauce, then add pasta and toss to combine. Add about half of bread crumbs and toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with remaining bread crumbs.


  • June 17, 2012 - 12:08 am

    Jess - I can’t stand fish for the most part (or seafood) and I’ve had it all kinds of ways – I’m just a weirdo. But I have to say that I do put anchovy paste in my puttanesca sauce because there is no other way to get that smokiness that it just MUST have. But I don’t know…fillets? Yup, freaked out by that.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 1:48 am

    Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand - I love the fact that anchovies melt in the pan when you fry them giving way to a rich intense salty flavour. A dish I often cook is Linguine Puttanesca also containing equally divisive ingredients of olives and capers which but put them together with oil, garlic and roasted tomato over pasta and it makes a winning recipe!

    I would have to say I am not a big fan of tripe.In my experience it smells exactly how it tastes!ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 7:25 am

    Sprigs of Rosemary - Olives (any color), fish (any type), cilantro — love ’em all. I made an olive topped bread last evening and a friend who really does eat just about anything said that he didn’t like olives. Please try, this, I begged. He did. He’s cured.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 8:49 am

    Ken┃hungry rabbit - Anchovies are my favorite and go-to ingredient to add flavor. I often make this pasta dish because it’s easy and straight from the pantry.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 8:54 am

    thyme (Sarah) - Anchovies = like category. Beets = hate category. Just can’t get the taste buds to accept them…although I made beet chips the other day…LIKE!ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 10:30 am

    jean | Lemons and Anchovies - This is my kind of go-to weeknight meal. With anchovies in the ingredient list, you don’t need much else. I wish more people would try it. You said it best in your last sentence–not the “I’m evil” part, LOL–people would enjoy the dish if they weren’t told anchovies were in it. :)

    Me? For some reason, I lost the taste for raw mushrooms a few years ago. Hubs loves them in salads so I add them for him, I omit. I love, love them cooked, though.ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 11:10 am

    Jamie - I don’t like anchovies per se, I hate them whole on pizzas and such but I have come to love the flavor they add when they are melted into a sauce like you have done. This is a really beautiful recipe and one I would love to try! Thanks for sharing, baby!ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 4:07 pm

    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic - I love anchovies, especially in pasta. I’ve never tried them with red onions though, it sounds great1ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 5:31 pm

    Kath - 3 cans of anchovies! This sounds spectacular to me!!ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 10:11 pm

    KBL - jean | Lemons and Anchovies on her FB page posted a link to this. I love most anything. Somethings I am just not fond of (french fries & restaurant pizza for the most part for example)…. Most food cooked well & properly I will eat. I’m not a huge fan of foods so hot all I taste is heat. I prefer flavors & heat isn’t one of them, IMHO…. I look forward to trying this sometime. My roomie is allergic to fish so not sure when I’ll have a chance to try it out. I love the flavor anchovies give to pasta dishes & how they dissolve into nothingness upon cooking. :)ReplyCancel

  • June 17, 2012 - 10:32 pm

    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. - wow Brian! Love this creative flavor combination!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 8:02 am

    Carolyn - Your pictures might be enough to win me over to sardines. Might. Can’t say for sure 😉ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 8:02 am

    Daisy - I am the same way as you! And it drives me crazy when people, particularly those with a well rounded palette have certain strange aversions. I’ve heard it all! My boyfriend doesn’t like rosemary, tomatoes, avocado, goat cheese and capers and that small list of all things i love makes me a little nutty! Though he will eat anchovies!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 8:20 am

    Joanne - The only ingredient I really can’t stand is celery and I can taste it from a mile away. It’s so funny how some people don’t think it has a taste at all but to me, it tastes SO STRONG. I’ve definitely snuck anchovies into people’s food before…it’s one of those ingredients that no one seems to like when they know it’s there, but that they LOVE once it’s invisible. 😛 This pasta sounds so delicious!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 9:19 am

    naomi - Ha! I sneak stuff in all the time. I’m much like I will eat and try anything. Matt not so much-I constantly sneak stuff in by pureeing it or by outright omission when asked “what’s in the dish”.

    I love anchovies, so naturally i’m a fan of this recipe. :)ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 9:49 am

    Sommer@ASpicyPerspective - Ya know, I try to sneak anchovies in a recipe whenever possible. They offer such rich potent flavor, and no one can ever figure out what it is.

    Love this recipe!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 10:41 am

    Shaina - “I know a lot of people who don’t like fish (I’m fairly certain that these individuals just haven’t had it cooked properly)…” My husband says the exact same thing. After a dinner date with our neighbors a few months ago we stopped by a local wine and cheese shop that also has its fair share of imported items, from fancy mustard to caviar to perfectly packed anchovies. They still tease us for picking up the anchovies, but they make the best Caesar salads. If only they knew.

    The pasta looks glorious, and I will have to give it a whirl for our next pasta night.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 11:43 am

    Andrew Frishman - Mnn. . . I LOVES me some fish, expetially when they are small and salty.

    Nunca asuma que un pequeño grupo de pescado salado no se puede cambiar el mundo, de hecho es lo único que lo ha logrado.ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 1:12 pm

    sippitysup - I think you should give tongue another go. It really is amazing. You have to be a meat eater of course. If you don’t eat meat you won’t like tongue. But if you are a meat eater and like steak. You like tongue. It’s like super beefy, satisfyingly chewy steak. GREGReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 1:32 pm

    Diane {Created by Diane} - looks wonderful and I can’t wait to try this delicious sauce!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 3:15 pm

    Healthy Living Val - I’m really loving the simple, straightforward flavors here and while anchovies are definitely divisive, it’s hard to get that umami richness elsewhere. Anchovy paste is the way to go!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 3:48 pm

    Jen @ Savory Simple - Anchovies have this weird stigma and I’m convinced it has to do with the fact that the first time we hear about them is as a topping on pizza. Most children will squirm at the thought of fish on pizza and that’s that! A first impression based on opinion rather than flavor. I’m sure many of the adults who dislike anchovies would be surprised to find out how often they’re included in restaurant sauces and stews.

    My only mild aversion is ginger. I can’t do pickled ginger. But I’m fine with it being a subtle ingredient.

    This recipe looks wonderful!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 7:10 pm

    JulieD - Wow, this sounds and looks amazing, Brian!!ReplyCancel

  • June 18, 2012 - 8:30 pm

    Jeanette - I happen to be an anchovy lover. This reminds of a simple pasta dish I used to make when I would come home late from work.ReplyCancel

  • June 19, 2012 - 7:25 am

    Sneh | Cook Republic - I love that a beautiful dish of pasta requires the bare minimum to taste like a million bucks! I love the flavours happening here in your dish .. lovely!ReplyCancel

  • June 19, 2012 - 9:01 am

    Cookin' Canuck - In our family, my husband detests mushrooms and olives, but the kids and I can’t get enough of them. The only thing I won’t touch is custard. But if you’re talking anchovies then my questions is, “When should I be there?” This looks fantastic, Brian.ReplyCancel

  • June 19, 2012 - 9:44 am

    Monet - Honey. You can cook me anything and I’d eat it. I’ve always been a bit squemish about anchovies, but then I had the most amazing anchovie based salad dressing. I changed my tune quick! This looks beautiful and delicious. A lovely summer meal. I can’t wait to see you! Email me soon about our rendevouz in Boston!ReplyCancel

  • June 21, 2012 - 1:44 pm

    Deanna - I love anchovies. Especially the marinated kind. I know people who claim they don’t like anchovies but love my Caesar salad dressing…I don’t like to tell them its the extra anchovies that make it taste good.ReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2012 - 6:32 pm

    Sandy@divaeatsitalia.com - I love anchovy. My family says they don’t like them, but little do they know, I use them in a lot of my dishes. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • June 26, 2012 - 3:24 pm

    greyson - Anchovy. The one thing that my husband loves. The one thing I am learning to love. The one thing I never cook. This recipe is so enticing. It is totally gonna rock the house! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • July 1, 2012 - 5:52 pm

    Shelly - I am like you when it comes to food. Beef tongue and bone marrow are on my list of least preferred meats, as are sweet breads. However, anchovies are divine in my book! I just made a Tilapia filets with lemon anchovy sauce last night and it was delicious. I’ll give this recipe a go for sure!

    PS: To all anchovy haters: Don’t diss the fish, it’s in a lot. Many chefs use it as a salty agent in different forms. One example is Caesar salad. That nice saltiness….that’s anchovy 😉ReplyCancel

  • September 4, 2012 - 1:47 pm

    Danielle - Sneaking any ingredient into a recipe is very dangerous….for people with food allergies it can be deadly!ReplyCancel

  • December 16, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    Rob - Hi Brian,

    Found your site – thought it was great!

    We are newbies to the foodie blogging scene. Although nothing is unique these days our blog is about the memories in food.

    We think nearly everyone has a ‘great food memory’ and often those stories are just as inspiring as the food.
    Our aim is to collect & curate these ‘love in food’ stories and share them with others to read.

    We were hoping that you could join us with your own ‘love in food’ story as well? You may have already created one on your own blog?
    Either way we are hoping you would share a meal with us?

    Look forward to hearing back from you.

    Best wishes Rob & AmandaReplyCancel

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