By Crystal Smith
July 4, 2012. When I was 19 I had the pleasure of working at a little Italian restaurant in Wilmington called Vinnie’s Italian Bistro. There were two big perks to the job. The first and most important perk was that my manager was one of my mother’s very best friends, a woman so close to my family that I called her Aunt Paula as a child. The second: free pizza. The employees got to take home the unsold pizza at the end of the night. The never ending supply of delicious pizza made me a hero in the eyes of my college roommates.
Before service began each night, the chef, a big Italian guy named Vinnie (no relation to the owner, Vinnie) always made whatever was on special that evening. A few years ago, after a long day of studying, I got an intense craving for a dish Vinnie used to make. The dish I recall was mostly butter with a healthy dose of garlic and just enough anchovy flavor to make it interesting. I made this pasta in an effort to recreate the magic of Vinnie’s dish without inheriting his waistline.
I usually use whole wheat pasta, but that is quite hard to find here in Buenos Aires, so the picture above is plain ol’ pasta. I substitute the butter with a bit of olive oil and add veggies to make it a one dish meal. The final product cures my craving without raising my cholesterol.
Pasta with Anchovies and Spinach
Note: When I’m feeling indulgent and my skinny jeans fit just fine, I add about a 1/2 teaspoon of organic butter to this sauce (at the same time I add the olive oil.) It’s not completely necessary, but it does make for a slightly richer sauce.
½ pound whole wheat pasta
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
6-8 anchovy filets, minced
1 Tblsp. Olive oil
2 c. spinach, kale, collards, chard, etc.*
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Grated romano cheese (to taste)
*If using greens other than kale, blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute before sauteing.
Put a giant pot of water on the stove. You want to give your pasta plenty of room to bounce around as it cooks. Once the water starts to boil, salt it very liberally and add the pasta. I usually throw a bay leaf in the pot as well. Don’t add oil to the water, it will just prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta later.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan and add the garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes but don’t brown the garlic. Stir in the minced anchovy filets and a pinch of red pepper flakes, and then add the spinach and sauté a minute or two until it is just wilted.
Once the pasta is ready, drain it, reserving some cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauté pan with the sauce and stir to coat the pasta well. Add a bit of cooking liquid if you need to stretch the sauce. Serve in plates or bowls and garnish with lots of Romano cheese.