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Spaghetti With Chard, Chilli and Anchovies

by . Featured in COOK EAT REPEAT
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Introduction

This is the very first recipe in Cook, Eat, Repeat, and one I return to regularly. There is just something about the contrast between the semolina-sweet spaghetti, minerally chard, and the saline depth of the anchovies that I can never get enough of. I like to use Rainbow Chard, chiefly because I find myself immensely cheered the minute I get a beautiful bunch of it in the house. With its ridiculously bright-hued stems - red, bright pink, orange, yellow, all jumbled together - it looks more like the imaginative creation of a small child with a full set of crayons than something that exists in nature. But you can use any chard or, indeed, kale (cavolo nero/ Tuscan Kale is a favourite), broccoli or spinach in its place.

I cook this often just for myself, even though it makes enough to feed two generously, as any leftovers are - trust me - wonderful cold, especially with a little more extra virgin olive oil and a good spritz of lemon juice. The very notion might make an Italian wince, but I dare say I have already caused eyebrows to raise in Italy by suggesting you grate over Parmesan or Pecorino when eating it first time out: the sacrosanct rules there forbid cheese with pasta dishes that contain either fish or a lot of garlic; this is divinely abundant in both.

While there is no point pretending that the anchovies aren't central to this, it does seem a bit mean to give a recipe for pasta with vegetables without at least presenting a vegan-friendly alternative. I can't quite reproduce the oomph of the anchovies, but black olives, finely chopped, are a good enough substitution so long as you can find those intense semi-dried ones in foil pouches or vacuum packed in jars or good unpitted olives in olive oil; the ones in brine are disappointingly lacking. Or increase the garlic and stir in a dab of Marmite. On top of that (to boost the elusive umami, and to replace the saltiness further provided by the Parmesan), you will need expansive recourse to nutritional yeast flakes and be prepared to salt the water the pasta cooks in with even more abandon than usual.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

This is the very first recipe in Cook, Eat, Repeat, and one I return to regularly. There is just something about the contrast between the semolina-sweet spaghetti, minerally chard, and the saline depth of the anchovies that I can never get enough of. I like to use Rainbow Chard, chiefly because I find myself immensely cheered the minute I get a beautiful bunch of it in the house. With its ridiculously bright-hued stems - red, bright pink, orange, yellow, all jumbled together - it looks more like the imaginative creation of a small child with a full set of crayons than something that exists in nature. But you can use any chard or, indeed, kale (cavolo nero/ Tuscan Kale is a favourite), broccoli or spinach in its place.

I cook this often just for myself, even though it makes enough to feed two generously, as any leftovers are - trust me - wonderful cold, especially with a little more extra virgin olive oil and a good spritz of lemon juice. The very notion might make an Italian wince, but I dare say I have already caused eyebrows to raise in Italy by suggesting you grate over Parmesan or Pecorino when eating it first time out: the sacrosanct rules there forbid cheese with pasta dishes that contain either fish or a lot of garlic; this is divinely abundant in both.

While there is no point pretending that the anchovies aren't central to this, it does seem a bit mean to give a recipe for pasta with vegetables without at least presenting a vegan-friendly alternative. I can't quite reproduce the oomph of the anchovies, but black olives, finely chopped, are a good enough substitution so long as you can find those intense semi-dried ones in foil pouches or vacuum packed in jars or good unpitted olives in olive oil; the ones in brine are disappointingly lacking. Or increase the garlic and stir in a dab of Marmite. On top of that (to boost the elusive umami, and to replace the saltiness further provided by the Parmesan), you will need expansive recourse to nutritional yeast flakes and be prepared to salt the water the pasta cooks in with even more abandon than usual.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Spaghetti with Chard, Chilli and Anchovies
Photo by Jonathan Lovekin

Ingredients

Serves: 2, heartily

Metric Cups
  • 300 grams rainbow (or other) chard
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more to pour over at the end)
  • 8 anchovy fillets (from a jar or tin)
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 125 millilitres hot water from a just-boiled kettle
  • 200 grams spaghetti
  • 2 - 3 x 15ml tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano (plus more to serve)
  • 12 ounces rainbow (or other) chard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more to pour over at the end)
  • 8 anchovy fillets (from a jar or tin)
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup hot water from a just-boiled kettle
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano (plus more to serve)

Method

  1. Put a large saucepan of water on for the pasta and put the kettle on to boil at the same time.
  2. Strip the leaves from the stalks of chard. Roll them up and slice finely, then leave to one side. Cut the stalks into 1-2cm / ½-¾-inch pieces, depending on their girth.
  3. Into a large pan, add the olive oil and the anchovies, and warm slowly, stirring and pressing down on the anchovies until they seem to melt into the oil.
  4. Take off the heat, peel and mince or grate in the garlic, add the chilli flakes, then put back on the heat, this time turned up to medium, and stir briefly before adding the chopped chard stalks. Turn the stalks around in the chilli-flecked anchovy oil for a minute or so to soak up the flavour.
  5. Pour in the hot water - I use an American ½ cup here for ease of measuring - stir again, and bring to a bubble. Put the lid on the pan and cook at a fast simmer until the stalks are tender; this will take 5-7 minutes. If you're cooking with larger stemmed, more robust chard, then you may need to go for 10 minutes.
  6. When the pasta water has come to the boil, salt it - it will rise up excitedly. Once it's calmed down again, drop in your spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions, though start checking a couple of minutes before it says.
  7. Add the shredded chard leaves to the stalks in their pan, give a good stir, replace the lid, and leave them to wilt in the hot pan. This could take anything from 2-4 minutes. Once they're ready, turn the heat off under the pan, keeping the lid on, while you wait for the pasta.
  8. Use a pasta fork or tongs to add the cooked spaghetti straight to the waiting pan of chard. It doesn't matter if the pasta is dripping with water, as that starchy liquid will help thicken your sauce. Turn the spaghetti well in the chard and anchovy mixture; you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons (60ml) of cooking water as you toss everything together; go slowly, and stop when the chard seems to turn into a sauce that cleaves to the strands of spaghetti.
  9. Grate over about 2 tablespoons' worth of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano and toss again, then give a generous pour of olive oil, and do likewise. Taste to see if you want more cheese or oil, and proceed accordingly, then turn into a warmed bowl or bowls, and bring the cheese, a grater and the bottle of olive oil to the table with you.
  1. Put a large saucepan of water on for the pasta and put the kettle on to boil at the same time.
  2. Strip the leaves from the stalks of chard. Roll them up and slice finely, then leave to one side. Cut the stalks into 1-2cm / ½-¾-inch pieces, depending on their girth.
  3. Into a large pan, add the olive oil and the anchovies, and warm slowly, stirring and pressing down on the anchovies until they seem to melt into the oil.
  4. Take off the heat, peel and mince or grate in the garlic, add the chilli flakes, then put back on the heat, this time turned up to medium, and stir briefly before adding the chopped chard stalks. Turn the stalks around in the chilli-flecked anchovy oil for a minute or so to soak up the flavour.
  5. Pour in the hot water - I use an American ½ cup here for ease of measuring - stir again, and bring to a bubble. Put the lid on the pan and cook at a fast simmer until the stalks are tender; this will take 5-7 minutes. If you're cooking with larger stemmed, more robust chard, then you may need to go for 10 minutes.
  6. When the pasta water has come to the boil, salt it - it will rise up excitedly. Once it's calmed down again, drop in your spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions, though start checking a couple of minutes before it says.
  7. Add the shredded chard leaves to the stalks in their pan, give a good stir, replace the lid, and leave them to wilt in the hot pan. This could take anything from 2-4 minutes. Once they're ready, turn the heat off under the pan, keeping the lid on, while you wait for the pasta.
  8. Use a pasta fork or tongs to add the cooked spaghetti straight to the waiting pan of chard. It doesn't matter if the pasta is dripping with water, as that starchy liquid will help thicken your sauce. Turn the spaghetti well in the chard and anchovy mixture; you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons (60ml) of cooking water as you toss everything together; go slowly, and stop when the chard seems to turn into a sauce that cleaves to the strands of spaghetti.
  9. Grate over about 2 tablespoons' worth of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano and toss again, then give a generous pour of olive oil, and do likewise. Taste to see if you want more cheese or oil, and proceed accordingly, then turn into a warmed bowl or bowls, and bring the cheese, a grater and the bottle of olive oil to the table with you.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare the chard a day ahead. Store, covered, in the fridge.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or a saucepan over medium heat, adding a little water if needed, until piping hot. Or eat cold.

MAKE AHEAD:
Prepare the chard a day ahead. Store, covered, in the fridge.

STORE:
Refrigerate leftovers, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or a saucepan over medium heat, adding a little water if needed, until piping hot. Or eat cold.

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