Pasta Ammuddicata: And You Thought You Hated Anchovies

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One of the things that helped me get through the week of eating on $20 like a breeze was making a meal plan and sticking to it. Seriously, this $20 thing wasn't even a challenge. Next time, I'm eating only out of what I have in my pantry and freezer for a week.

And that's where this recipe would have come in handy. Deciding one night to toss the meal plan aside (I was feeling creative that evening), I wanted to make something entirely out of what I hadn't bought in the store. That, to me, was much more of a challenge. And what I came up with was an old recipe I remembered from high school: pasta ammuddicata.

Ammuddicata is a regional Italian dish from Sicily that's basically little more than peasant food. Following that designation, it calls for five extremely basic ingredients: spaghetti, red pepper flakes, bread crumbs, olive oil and anchovies. And in my case, these are things I happen to keep on hand at all times. (I love anchovies on Saltines with ketchup. Sue me.) Except this time, I had a tin of kippers instead of anchovies. Would the recipe turn out the same? Definitely not, but I decided to try it anyway.

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Using this recipe, I slightly altered it based on the kippers and came up with this:

  • 1 tin smoked kippers, drained and diced
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. thick spaghetti
  • 1 c. bread crumbs, toasted

Toast bread crumbs in oven under broiler (watch them carefully, as they'll brown almost immediately). Reserve in a bowl and keep warm.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan with high sides over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes and saute for a minute, releasing the heat. Add the diced kippers and crush them with a fork or spatula into a paste as they cook down. (Note: With anchovies, the little buggers melt almost immediately into a wonderfully smooth, briny sauce. Not so with kippers; you have to work at it.)

Cook spaghetti and drain. Transfer drained spaghetti into saute pan and toss with kipper sauce until strands are well-coated. Plate and serve with toasted bread crumbs on top. (Note: At the last minute, I decided I wanted something green to go with it and wilted some spinach in the same pan as I'd used for the sauce, then added the spinach to the whole mess. It was wonderful.)

The resulting dish was briny, yes, but also smoky and slightly nutty. Did I like it more than traditional pasta ammuddicata? No, but I definitely liked it on its own merits. And I loved it for the fact that it came exclusively from my pantry -- except for the few spinach leaves -- and used up some stuff I'd been meaning to eat for months.

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