Pasta With Anchovies and Breadcrumbs Recipe

Pasta With Anchovies and Breadcrumbs Recipe

A few oil-packed anchovies, fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, seasonings, and olive oil, make this Sicilian-style pasta dish a delicious weeknight meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. This version includes spaghetti, but bucatini, linguine, or another long pasta would do just fine.

Anchovies are fish, and when eaten alone, they taste like fish, but the saltiness and umami flavor stand out when incorporated into a pasta sauce. This recipe uses that funky saltiness to make a simple sauce with a complex flavor.

The breadcrumbs add flavor and texture to the dish, and they are quick and easy to make with a few slices of sourdough or another hearty day-old bread. Cut off the crusts, toss them in the food processor with some minced garlic, and pulse them to make coarse breadcrumbs. Then you'll cook the breadcrumbs in olive oil until lightly browned and crisp—the perfect garlicky topping for a pasta dish!

Sauteéd anchovy fillets and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil provide a simple flavor profile for the dish. It couldn't be easier!

“Amazingly delicious! I love recipes like this that have few ingredients and pack a huge flavor punch. I used day-old sourdough boule and left the crusts on. Definitely use the lemon, and serve with a lemon wedge, too. It brightens up the entire dish.” — Diana Andrews

Pasta with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs Recipe/Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Breadcrumbs:

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 7 ounces day-old bread, about 4 slices

  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional

For the Pasta:

  • 12 ounces spaghetti, or lingine or bucatini

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise

  • 3 medium oil-packed anchovy fillets, mashed

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional

  • Kosher salt, to taste

For Serving:

  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

  • Lemon wedges, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Pasta With Anchovies and Breadcrumbs ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, remove the crusts from the bread, if you like, and tear or cut it into cubes.

    Bread cubes on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Put bread cubes, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt in a food processor and pulse to make coarse breadcrumbs. You should have about 2 cups of crumbs, a bit more if the crusts are not removed.

    Bread cubes, garlic, and kosher salt in a food processor

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Heat the 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are lightly brown and crisp, about 5 to 12 minutes, depending on the moisture in the bread.

    Breadcrumbs in a pot on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl, toss with lemon zest, if using, and set aside.

    Breadcrumbs in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to al dente according to package instructions, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

    Pasta in a colander and pasta water in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Wipe out the pot used for the breadcrumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the halved garlic cloves and cook until lightly brown, about 2 minutes.

    Garlic in a pot with oil, on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  8. Remove and discard the garlic pieces.  Add the anchovies and crushed red pepper to the garlic-flavored oil and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the lemon juice, if using. 

    Anchovies and crushed red pepper in a pot on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  9. Add the pasta to the pot and toss, cooking, until warmed through. Add some cooking water to loosen the mixture as needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and more crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

    Pasta in a pot on a burner

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  10. Plate the pasta in wide, shallow pasta bowls and top with a generous amount of garlic breadcrumbs. Garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

    Pasta With Anchovies and Breadcrumbs in a bowl, with lemon pieces and herbs in bowls on the side

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of dried crushed red pepper flakes, add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of crushed Calabrian chiles in oil.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of rinsed and drained capers to the oil mixture along with the red pepper flakes.
  • While they won't be as coarse, you may use store-bought breadcrumbs instead of fresh ones. Skip step 3 and 4. In step 5, sauté the minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the dry breadcrumbs and toss with the oil mixture. Add lemon zest, if using, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Remove the crumbs to a bowl and set them aside.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover pasta and the breadcrumbs in separate, covered containers for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat the pasta with a small amount of water in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat until hot, stirring frequently. Alternatively, put the pasta in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on full power for about 45 seconds. Stir and continue heating, stirring in 30-second intervals, until hot.
  • To reheat the breadcrumbs, heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, tossing, for about 2 minutes, until hot.

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