Food has the power to connect people: to places, to memories, to one another. Food associations are powerful and lasting. It’s one of the reasons that I love to cook.
Actually, that’s not true. I’m doing more than invoking. I’m relating. And that means that I have to engage with the recipe, add my story to it. Mindlessly going through the motions is zombie cooking, and as a general rule I abhor zombie cooking. Originally, spaghetti con alici was just pasta, garlic, and fresh anchovies. When it came to Chicago, fresh anchovies were replaced with oil-packed anchovies – a necessary concession to Midwest realities at the time. When I picked up the recipe, I added broccoli and red pepper flakes. You see, recipes, like families, grow and change over time. What will you change when you take up the recipe, I wonder.
Spaghetti con alici e broccoli: Spaghetti with anchovies and broccoli
(Spaghetti con acciughe e broccoli)
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 2-oz can of flat anchovies
2 C frozen broccoli
Red pepper flakes
1/2 lb dried spaghetti
Fill a large pot with water. Place over high heat.
Heat the olive oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the pieces start to turn golden. DO NOT over cook – burnt garlic has a bitter taste that will ruin any dish.
While the garlic’s browning, put the broccoli in the microwave. Do not add water. Microwave for 3.5 minutes.
If the pot of water is boiling, turn down the burner so that the water is just below a boil
Add the can of anchovies, including the oil. (Note: Dad likes to use two cans; I think that makes it a bit too salty. It’s a question of personal preference, so try both ways.) Stir gently. The anchovies will “melt” and form a thin paste. Add red pepper flakes to taste. Continue cooking over medium/medium low heat (do not boil).
Drain any water that might have collected at the bottom of the dish of broccoli. Add the broccoli to the anchovy-garlic mixture. Turn the heat down to a medium-low.
If you turned down the pot of water, bring it back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to directions, usually about 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta. Add it to the pot with the anchovy-broccoli mixture. Toss, and serve.