I was cleaning out my fridge before grocery day and I noticed that I had some cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves that were almost about to go bad, as well as three anchovy fillets leftover from a dish I had made earlier in the week.
Knowing that I had tagliatelle pasta in my pantry, I thought to myself… Could I cook up a humble pasta dish with these few, but flavorful ingredients?
So I came up with this cherry tomato and anchovy pasta dish. It was outright delicious—and so I’m sharing it with you today.
The ingredients I used:
- Mediterranean sea salt
- Cherry tomatoes
- Canned anchovy fillets
- Chili flakes
- Dried tagliatelle nests
- Extra virgin olive oil
To cook the tagliatelle nests, I filled my pot with 6 cups (1.5 liters) tap water and seasoned it with 2 hefty pinches of Mediterranean sea salt. I turned the heat dial up to 8/9 on my induction cooktop and went on to prep the ingredients for my pasta dish.
I had 6 cloves of garlic and 3 anchovy filets left in my fridge, and that’s how much of each I ended up adding to my pasta. I was worried that I was adding too much garlic at first, but then I had to discard bits of pieces from a couple of the cloves since they weren’t in their best shape.
I ended up with equal parts garlic and anchovies:
Next, I had to make the anchovy-garlic paste.
I mixed the anchovy and garlic mince together and, using one side of my chef’s knife, started pressing them down and smearing them against the surface of my wooden cutting board.
Every now and then, I minced the paste a little more to make it even finer. I kept doing this until the anchy and garlic had turned into a salty, pungent, and uniform enough paste that I could use as the base of my pasta sauce.
I placed my stainless steel frying pan on the cooktop, drizzled about 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in it, and turned the heat up to medium-high.
The pan needed 2-3 minutes to preheat, which gave time to do two things. First, I added the tagliatelle to the boiling pot of water. Second, I went back to the cutting board and sliced the cherry tomatoes.
At this stage, the pan was hot enough for sautéing the anchovy-garlic paste. I transferred the mince to the pan and cooked it, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. To keep the garlic from burning, I scooped up 1 soup ladle of pasta water and poured it into the pan.
I added the cherry tomatoes to the frying pan. It took them 1-2 minutes to release their sweet and slightly acidic sauce and to color my oil pale red.
Meanwhile, the tagliatelle was still a little stiff and almost al dente. I transferred it to the pan and scooped up some more pasta water, knowing that I’d finish cooking them with the sauce.
Last but not least, I sprinkled a few chili flakes for an extra kick. It started to look and smell amazing…
The perfume in the air in my kitchen reminded me of an Italian seafood restaurant that my wife and I once visited on a trip to Campania, a beautiful region of Italy on the Mediterranean seacoast.
I kept cooking the pasta, occasionally tossing it in the pan, until the sauce had evaporated and cooked down. All that was left was the aromatic and savory coating with tiny bits and pieces of anchovy and garlic on the noodles and the cherry tomatoes.
I took the pan off the heat, plated, and ate the pasta. If the smell had brought back memories of the sea, the taste rolled back time and took me right there.
Here’s the recipe.
Pasta With Cherry Tomatoes and Anchovy Fillets
- Chef's knife
- Cutting board
- Frying pan
- Pasta pot
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tagliatelle nests
- 1 pinch chili flakes
- 2 pinches sea salt
Make the anchovy-garlic paste
- Crush, peel, and mince the garlic cloves.
- Cut the anchovy filets into ⅛-inch strips and mince them by chopping crosswise.
- Mix the garlic mince and anchovy mince together.
- Press down on them with one side of your chef’s knife and smear them against the surface of your cutting board until they’ve turned into a uniform paste.
Slice the cherry tomatoes
- Slice the cherry tomatoes into ½ or ⅓ (depending on each cherry tomato's size).
Boil the pasta noodles in salted water
- Bring a pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil.
- When the water is steaming, bubbling, and churning, add the pasta to the pot and give the noodles a quick stir.
- Let the noodles cook. Come back to the pot 2-3 minutes before the recommended time in the cooking instructions on the package.
Make the sauce in your pan
- Preheat your frying pan for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in the hot frying pan. Lift the pan and swirl it around, coating the entire cooking surface with olive oil.
- Add the anchovy-garlic paste and sauté it briefly, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Scoop out 1 soup ladle of salty and starchy pasta water from the pasta pot. Pour it in the pan to add a cooking liquid that will keep the garlic from burning.
- Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally.
Finish cooking the noodles with the sauce
- When the pasta noodles in the pot are slightly stiff and almost al dente, transfer them from the pot to your pan. Optionally, add a few chili flakes to give the pasta a little kick.
- Cook the noodles with the sauce, tossing them in the pan often, for 2-3 minutes. When the sauce has evaporated and all that's left is coating on the noodles, the pasta is done.