1.09.2016

A Venetian Favorite

Prior to 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 and onions.

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.

When we 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.

While we 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.

Yes. That's it. So simple, and so seductive. Since having this at the Taverna in Venice, I have started buying good quality anchovies… in bulk!

This dish could turn an anchovy-hater into an anchovyphile.

Salute!

~ David

Bigoli in Salsa

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 2-ounce tin anchovies in oil, drained
1 large onion, 8-12 ounces
freshly ground black pepper
salt, perhaps
6 ounces bigoli, or thick spaghetti

Heat the 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.

When the 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.

Divide among two bowls, and serve. And please do not add cheese. This is a dish served as is!

Serves 2, and can be doubled.


47 comments:

  1. Sounds amazing! I making it for Chip tomorrow for Sunday dinner!! Thank you David! Wine recommendation please:)

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    1. Hi, Tina! (I am assuming it is you...) This would be best served with a Venetian wine. The most easily fond in the U.S. is a Pinot Grigio. Hope you like it! xx

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  2. So simple. Has to be delicious! Love the last photo of the mailboxes. Hope your new year is starting of fabulous, David!

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    1. Thanks, Cathleen! The mailboxes in Venice made me smile everyday.

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    2. I was just about to ask what that last photo was of! So cool!

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  3. Mike and I are trying to make simpler meals this year - With so few ingredients, it looks like I might have to give this a shot! I have to admit I'm a bit wary of the anchovy sauce but it looks and sounds delicious.

    Also, I'm jealous of your trip! Your photos are beautiful. We are hoping to visit Italy and maybe Paris this year sometime. I've never been to Europe! I might hit you up for some travel tips!

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    1. Caroline - Simpler meals are some of our absolute favorItes. While I love nothing more than spending the day in the kitchen playing, there are the realities of real life, and I like to eat on the early side! Simplicity helps!

      Please let me know when you and Mike want some ideas - we both love Paris, and it is hard for us to vacation anywhere else once Italy gets mentioned. We have lots of great suggestions! :)

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    2. Awesome!! Thanks for your help! We will definitely take you up on the advice-giving for our Europe trip.

      We tend to eat on the... er... very very late side. Mainly because I don't think about making dinner until I'm hungry, or after Mike runs or takes a nap after work... and then I usually make something a bit too complex. So yeah. We're going for more simple this year.

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    3. Simple is good. Save the complicated stuff for the weekends. In the meantime, dream of Europe...

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  4. I make this often. Such sublime simplicity. GREG

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  5. I'll have to make this for my Dad who is an anchovy-lover! In fact, I don't know if you've already seen it, but he's the one who made the Spaghetti with Anchovies recipe on my page (with a video)-and it is pretty funny! I'm not a huge anchovy fan, so who knows, it might convert me too!

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    1. I think this could be the dish to win you over, Christina! So amazing.

      Now, I have to go find that video of your father making pasta with anchovies!

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  6. Some people look forward to the Sunday paper. I look forward to another fantastic edition of Cocoa and Lavender.

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    1. Thanks, Connie - I love knowing that you are out there reading! Hope you are having a good New Year!

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    2. I agree completely - my favorite read of the week.

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  7. And that's exactly why I try everything local, even if it's not that tempting. Hell, I can't really remember anything not being tempting to be honest. But I'm glad you've embraced anchovies. They are a little scary at first! I also didn't expect to love Venice, but I did!!!

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    1. I have always loved anchovies, Mimi - but some more than others! And, like you, I am open to try any-and-everything.

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  8. The photos are amazing, David. I am certain that I would not have considered making this if you had not presented it in such an alluring way. Can you write a little about how to choose anchovies and where do you buy them in bulk?

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    1. Susan, I found these anchovies on ChefShop.com and the value and quality look great. I am going to try them! http://chefshop.com/Scalia-Anchovy-Fillets-in-Olive-Oil-Tin-P6060.aspx As for how to choose them, I always get imported, and look for anchovies packed in the best oil. If you can see them (they are packed in glass), you can also see who well cleaned they are. You must make this! It is an amazing dish!

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  9. My husband loves anything with anchovies and as soon as I get home I will make this pasta. It's been too long since I've been in Venice. Your photos are gorgeous .

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde! I think you will both love this - so simple, and so addictive.

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  10. Wow,David, those are really beautiful photos!
    I am going to look at Amazon right now for that pasta and some good quality anchovies. We live far out in the country and it's not easy to find uncommon ingredients.

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    1. Thanks, Caterina - I know how hard it is to get really good ingredients when you aren't in the mainstream. I use ChefShop.com quite often - and will send you a link if I find anything good there.

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  11. Hmm...not available on Amazon. Oh well, I can look elsewhere.
    I wonder if you have ever read this Venice blog with the unlikely title of ......
    http://iamnotmakingthisup.net/ The author does not post often but it's really interesting to read insider info about Venice. Hope you like it.

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    1. Caterina - I have not tried this brand of anchovy yet, but it looks like a good one. I am going to give them a try soon. http://chefshop.com/Scalia-Anchovy-Fillets-in-Olive-Oil-Tin-P6060.aspx Thank you so much for the blog reference - we have been reading it this afternoon and find it really charming. We have subscribed!

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  12. I must say, I'm an anchovyphile through and through. I'm about to add another pin to my Italian travel map for when we are there next. I want to go to Taverna San Trovaso now to try either the anchovy or liver pasta!

    I'm well overdue for an anchovy fix, so I think I'll be making this for lunch on the weekend. Thanks, David!

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    1. Just to warn you, John - the liver dish wasn't on pasta - it was just liver! And very good liver. We have lots of places to recommend in Venice... so, when you are ready, just let us know!

      Glad to see so many people like anchovies. I thought this was going to be a killer post... meaning, it would die a sad ether-death.

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  13. I'm an anchovy hater, except in Worcestershire sauce and caesar salad dressing.
    This pasta dish looks like it would perfectly satisfy my recent craving for spaghetti and since I trust you, I'm going to make it! xoox

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    1. I really don't think you will be disappointed, Colette. xx

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  14. The best pasta is the most simply prepared. Your dish is further proof.

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    1. Thanks, John. Looking forward to making your pizzocheri soon.

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  15. Beautiful pictures. And the pasta looks amazing. I love anchovies and always use them in my Caesar salad, making sure the die-hard anchovy-phobes don't know about it (shhhh)!

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    1. I love that you don't tell them, Inger. Honestly, I think the phobia is really just that - a phobia! So many people who "hate" anchovies, have never tasted them!

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  16. This is a dish that my husband would surely enjoy. The first dish I usually order when in Venice is fegato all a Venezia like Mark had so it seems like all of our tastes are similar.

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    1. The funny thing about the food in Venice, Karen, is that I was told by many that there was no good food in Venice... How wrong they were! I love the fegato, as well.

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  17. David, I just discovered your blog through your comment on Sippity Sup's Caesar Salad. Your comment jumped out at me because I, too, am allergic to garlic; there don't seem to be many of us around! And I started my blog at the same time you did. This dish is one I've never heard of and am looking forward to trying.

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    1. Jean - I am SO glad to meet you, and look forward to wandering over to your blog this weekend. There are very few of us, but I find more and more each year. One of my colleagues where I work is allergic to garlic as well... like me, she can eat cooked onions, leeks, shallots, etc. But no garlic at all, and no raw onions. I think you will enjoy this dish - quite intoxicating.

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  18. Aww. I love anchovy and I am a fan of the recipe you posted. Improvement, at the end mix spaghetti with fried bread crumbs.

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    1. I think you will like this, Cindy, but I wouldn't add the bread crumbs. I know the dish you are talking about and this is very different. I recommend trying it just as it is, at least the first time! Thanks for stopping by C&L!

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  19. David, fabulous post with amazing photography! I never expect less than that from you, my friend! wish I could travel to Italy soon...but in the meantime I shall feast my eyes on this post...
    Liebe Grüße auch an Mark - von uns allen!
    Andrea

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    1. You are so sweet, my friend! I hope you do get to Italy soon - especially to Venice, as it seems to be sinking fast! Liebe Grüße, David

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  20. Oh how I love this post! I miss Italy so much. One of my absolute favourite places in the world, particularly Florence and Tuscany. I still buy bottles of Chianti these days in the hope that I can find some of the smaller vineyard labels that we visited in 2014. So hard to find in Australia though. At least I can channel those holiday feelings with a bowl of this gorgeous pasta, I'm a big fan of anchovies (so is Aaron) so we would happily wolf this down with some garlicky bread ;)

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    1. Oh, Laura - you have such wonderful wines in Australia! And Chianti tastes better, well, in Chianti! I hope you and Aaron like the pasta!

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  21. That is one of the best combinations in the world and is a favorite for a beloved tomato-based sauce I make too. I loved your pictures of Venice, the city I grew up in and that will always hold a special place in my heart.

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    1. Thanks, Fiona - I never knew you grew up in Venice! Such an incredibly beautiful city, and one I want to visit again soon.

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