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Venetian pasta with onions and anchovies

Audrey Songan from United Kingdom

Serves
5
Preparation
10 mins
Cooks in
10 mins
Country of origin
Italy

Barcelona. A 24 hour layover. I had a single goal: the Venetian pasta dish at Xemei. It’s nice neighborhood restaurant off the beaten tourist track that specializes in Venetian cuisine. Famously, the staff kicked Woody Allen out for being late for his reservation. Knowing they’d take no prisoners, we weren’t about to take our chances. I had been dreaming of the famous Venetian spaghetti for months now and I needed to have it. We booked a table for 11pm, because… Spain. The staff accepted.

Come 11pm and we are tired but exhilarated from a full day of sightseeing and our bellies still full from other culinary delights. But I have waited for this Venetian pasta dish and no amount of weariness would keep between the dish and me. A jovial trek to Xemei ensued. We take our seats and to our waitress’ surprise, I ask her to take our orders right off the bat. I came prepared. Fast-forward fifteen minutes, our waitress enters the kitchen and within seconds she exits, with the dish. The bright yellow egg pasta peeking from the dull yet glossy sauce that coated it ever so perfectly. It was just as I’d imagined it. One bite and there it was: the rare moment when expectations met reality. Perfection. The initial pungency arrested my taste buds like a savory bomb but that slowly then turned to a rounded sweetness.

That moment stayed with me and I was determined to remake the dish. I forced myself to recreate it. And so it did. The first time I tried my version, I knew it would forever be a family recipe.

It’s a classic dish. It’s simple and yet has so much finesse. It’s got a heavy hit of umami but the cheap sweetness of the onions really shines through and softens the heady saltiness of the anchovies, introducing almost floral notes. Meanwhile, the rich pasta and cream rounds out the dish.
I have made this dish for my family friends, and it is a crowd pleaser. So much so that even staunch haters of anchovies love it! But most of all it uniqueness sticks in their minds.

Ingredients

  • Fresh pasta (spaghetti or tagliatelle)
  • Anchovies roughly chopped (about 80-115g anchovies depending on how salty /pungent you want it). It’s worth getting really good quality anchovies for this.
  • 1 large onion or two small onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Cream (75-100ml)
  • Butter
  • Salt and papper to taste
  • Chives or parsley for garnish

Method

  • Start by boiling salted water in a pot for water. Chop onions and garlic roughly.
  • Puree onion and garlic mixture in blender/food processor.
  • Melt butter over a pan and fry pureed onions and garlic.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta for 2 mins.
  • Add roughly chopped anchovies once the onion and garlic mixture starts to reduce, breaking up the anchovy chunks as you go.
  • Add a few dollops of cream right at the end to loosen up the sauce. You will know when the sauce is ready for this step when the anchovy bits have mixed thoroughly and the sauce has reduced and looks slightly drier.
  • Add salt and paper to taste. I do not usually add salt as I already boil the pasta in salty water and the anchovies are salty enough.
  • Add drained pasta to sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of the pasta water and mix over heat for about 30 seconds till its mixed through. Add a couple more dollops of cream at the end and mix.
  • Top with garnish to serve.

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