visiting Venice two years ago, I would never have imagined that my favorite
Venetian pasta dish would have been based on two humble ingredients: anchovies
But that is
what happened. In fact, it was the first pasta dish I ordered in Venice, at the
Taverna San Trovaso, a restaurant favored by locals, and recommended to us by
our friend Roque.
It is in the
Dosoduro section of the city, not far from the Accademia Museum, and the Peggy
Guggenheim Museum, where Roque works.
arrived at the Taverna, the noontime crowd was noisy, and seating looked
impossible. We were, however, led up a narrow stairway at the back to a large
upper dining room, and were seated next to a French couple.
didn't chat with them, we did eavesdrop and, when her seafood pasta arrived and
she asked for cheese, we got to share in the earful she received from the
waiter. Where seafood and fish are involved in Italy, cheese is NOT. It's a
rule, and one not to be broken.
It was a raw and
windy day, spitting cold rain, so Mark decided quickly on a traditional and
fortifying fegato alla Venezia (basically, a Venetian liver and onions). I,
however, asked our server to recommend a few other local dishes, seeking
something I had never had before.
One of the
first recommendations out of his mouth was Bigoli in Salsa. Bigoli is a thick,
spaghetti-like pasta made from wheat flour, similar to pici found in Tuscany,
or bucatini in Rome, although it is not hollow like bucatini.
The sauce is
simply anchovies (the salted variety) cooked in some olive oil until they
become a paste, with sliced onions added and cooked until caramelized.
it. So simple, and so seductive. Since having this at the Taverna in Venice, I
have started buying good quality anchovies… in bulk!
could turn an anchovy-hater into an anchovyphile.
extra virgin olive oil
1 2-ounce tin
anchovies in oil, drained
onion, 8-12 ounces
ground black pepper
bigoli, or thick spaghetti
olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the drained anchovies and sauté them until
they break down and become paste-like. While the anchovies are cooking, peel
and thinly slice the onion lengthwise.
Heat a large
pot of water for the pasta.
Add the onion
to the anchovy paste, reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until onions are
caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons
of water to the onions at about 15 minutes to keep them from burning. Season
well with freshly ground black pepper, and a little salt if the anchovies are
not salty enough.
onions are caramelized, cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente. Add
the pasta to the onion-anchovy sauce, and toss. Add a little of the cooking
water, to thin the sauce enough to coat each strand of pasta well.
two bowls, and serve. And please do not add cheese. This is a dish served as