Recipe: Bigoli in salsa (whole grain spaghetti in anchovy sauce)


My paternal grandfather, Nonno Bino, was originally from the ghetto of Venice and came to Rome in the 1930s to find a job and a wife. He married my grandmother (Nonna Bianca) and worked with her in the family business - at the time a small shop selling glass and ceramic household products. I cherish my Venetian origins, and Venetian Jewish cooking is one of the richest cuisines in Italy. In fact, Venice had Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italian Jews living together, and as a result the food in the ghettos was varied, exotic and cosmopolitan.

This recipe is a staple of Venetian Jewish cooking, even if its Jewish origins are often forgotten. Bigoli is Venetian pasta originally made with buckwheat flour, but is now more commonly made with whole wheat flour. It is a little thicker than the traditional spaghetti and its texture is rough, allowing the sauce to be more easily absorbed. I am using wholegrain spaghetti here as it is similar to bigoli and more easily available. Wholegrain spaghetti has a nutty flavour, which goes very well with the anchovies.

You may find out that even people who don't like anchovies often like this recipe - somehow the combination of the onions, parsley and wholegrain pasta balance-out the anchovies, creating a rich flavour.

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Preparation time: 20 minutes.Serves 6 as starter or 4 as a main

500g wholemeal spaghetti
100g anchovy fillets
finely chopped
100ml extra virgin olive oil
3 finely chopped onions
Bunch of finely
chopped parsley
2 litres water
A handful of rock salt
Black pepper to taste


 Heat up the olive oil and the onion in a large non stick frying pan.
 Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the onion is soft. To help in the process, add a few tablespoons of warm water and leave it to evaporate.
 Once the water has evaporated add half the parsley, then stir and leave the onion to turn golden.
 Finely chop the anchovy fillets and add these to the frying pan together with some black pepper. Mix thoroughly with the onions and leave to cook for 3-4 minutes, adding the rest of the parsley at the last minute.
 While the sauce is cooking, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. When it boils add a handful of sea salt and drop in the spaghetti. Stir well and leave to cook for as long as the package says or until al dente.
 TIP: Before draining the pasta, take a large cup of boiling water from the saucepan and put to one side.
 Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the anchovy sauce on medium heat. Mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated with the sauce. If your frying pan is not big enough then use a large bowl instead.
 While stirring, slowly add some of the water you put to one side earlier and let it absorb until it's creamy.
 Add more olive oil if needed, ground black pepper to taste, stir thoroughly and serve immediately.

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