Pasta With Anchovies and Onions

Pasta with anchovies and onions is full of omega-3 and umami-rich little fishes. And it’s faster than fast, making it doable even on a hectic weeknight. It’s protein-rich but doesn’t skimp on carbs or cheese, and the satiating taste will make you appreciate how easy it is to pull together.

A white bowl full of buctini pasta, covered with grated cheese and parsley.

Adapted from Chris McDade | The Magic of Tinned Fish | Artisan, 2021

Known in the home kitchens along Venetian canals simply as salsa, this ancient recipe comprises minimal ingredients found in most Italian home pantries. It is traditionally eaten on fasting or meatless days as a way to show sorrow for your sins, but it is now enjoyed year-round in osterias all over the region.–Chris McDade


Like fruit and veg, fish has a season and a time when it’s at its best. What do you do the rest of the time? Tinned fish is an affordable, high-quality way to make a healthy and exceptional dinner. Tinned fish is harvested and preserved at the peak of quality and flavor. It’s more economical than fresh seafood, stores easily in your pantry, and comes recommended by medical experts as one of the world’s most nutrient-packed foods. You know what you’re getting when there are only one or two ingredients on the label. There are many, many countries that rely on tinned fish (Spain, Portugal, and Italy come to mind…) for those out-of-season cravings and omega-3 rich dinners. And if you’re a bit of a greenie, think of it this way—smaller portions mean less food waste, they require no refrigeration, tin is easy to recycle and cheaper to transport, and you’re not paying for fish out-of-season. And just in general, they’re a quick addition to most meals.

Pasta With Anchovies and Onions

A white bowl full of buctini pasta, covered with grated cheese and parsley.

I hope that my approach to tinned fish will give you new ideas for the tins stacked in your pantry. Pasta is a perfect base for tinned anchovies and onions, and I’ve used Parmesan, lemon, and parsley to highlight the outstanding umami flavor of one of my go-to fishes, anchovies.

Chris McDade

Prep 20 mins

Cook 25 mins

Total 45 mins

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions, stirring every 2 minutes. Taste a noodle a minute or so before the end of the suggested cooking time to ensure that your pasta comes out al dente.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium skillet combine the garlic, 1 tablespoon of butter, and the olive oil. Warm over low heat until the garlic becomes fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the onion and increase the heat to medium. Cook, giving the skillet a toss every other minute and reducing the heat if the butter begins to brown, until the onions are soft, about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.

  • Just before it’s time to remove the pasta from the boiling water, add 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the pasta water and the anchovies to the onion mixture and bring it to an aggressive simmer.

  • Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Continue cooking, constantly stirring and flipping, until about 3 tablespoons of liquid remain in the skillet, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remove from the heat. Add the Parmesan, parsley, and lemon juice and stir until fully incorporated.

  • Divvy the pasta between two bowls and serve with more Parmesan, if desired.

Serving: 1servingCalories: 435kcal (22%)Carbohydrates: 28g (9%)Protein: 13g (26%)Fat: 30g (46%)Saturated Fat: 15g (94%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 68mg (23%)Sodium: 1333mg (58%)Potassium: 145mg (4%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 839IU (17%)Vitamin C: 6mg (7%)Calcium: 179mg (18%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Originally published July 05, 2021

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