One of the things I really enjoyed in my interview with Paul Maciel is that he spoke about how foods fit into a traditional Italian meal. He said that pasta is a traditional part of the diet but it’s not eaten in the large portions we South Africans are used to seeing. He inspired me to create a South African-sized, Italian-inspired dish that celebrates pasta.Pasta is a topical dish in my office with people confessing an absolute love for the dish but knowing that the portions they eat are simply too big. One of the easiest ways to add bulk to a meal is to add vegetables. Now I know what you’re thinking – pasta made out of vegetables (like carrot noodles, zucchini noodles and their friends) does not taste like pasta. I agree! So I’ve taken a small portion of delicious pasta and added bulk to the meal by putting the vegetables into the dish instead of serving them on the side.
I have created more of a pasta dressing than a real sauce for this dish and part of the reason for this is traditionally, pasta is meant to be the star of the show and not the sauce. If you’ve already scrolled ahead and read the ingredients, you will know that I have used anchovies in the dressing. Before you run away screaming, I’d like to reassure you that a little anchovy goes a long way without overpowering the dish with fishiness. Anchovies are an amazing little fish. In her 2014 book, Star Fish, Daisy Jones lists anchovies as one of the ten sustainable fish we should be eating (squid is listed too by the way). Two small anchovy fillets per person will really add a salty punch (they’re salted before they are stored in oil) and satisfying umami flavour. Daisy says you’ll find anchovies in all manner of meat dishes such as osso bucco and I love adding a few to slow roasting lamb shanks. They really enhance meaty flavours. Trust us on this one…I chose squid ink pasta mainly because I thought it would contrast beautifully with the green zucchini noodles. My enjoyment of a meal really rockets when the dish delights my eyes first. Feel free to enjoy any other pasta with the dish, I would encourage a shape that is similar to your vegetable noodles to make eating them easier to eat.The first time I tried this dish I could not find fresh ricotta and so played around with peppered feta. I have since tried the fresh ricotta and while it’s more of a pure Italian dish using fresh ricotta, I really love the intense feta flavour in the dish.
The following recipe is perfect for one hungry woman. Men may want to add some more vegetables and cheese or just add a bigger side salad. I find the dish incredibly fast if you prepare all the ingredients first or while the pasta is cooking – but be warned, even that happens quickly.
- 40g squid ink spaghetti
- 1-2 Tsp. olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or minced
- 200g spiralized zucchini (roughly one large zucchini)
- ½ cup frozen petit pois
- 2 anchovy fillets
- Juice of half a lemon
- 50g crumbled fresh ricotta (or feta if you couldn’t find any fresh ricotta cheese)
- Baby basil leaves (or 2-3 large basil leaves) to garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. If there’s just one of you, like there was when I took these photo’s a medium pot will do. Salt the water lightly and place the pasta in to cook.
- At the same time in a very small pan or pot, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovy fillets over gentle heat, we don’t want to burn the garlic. With a bit of stirring, the anchovies will dissolve into the oil. Once the anchovies are dissolved and garlic is translucent, squeeze the lemon juice into the sauce and season with black pepper. You might want to add one or two tablespoons of the pasta water to the dressing at this point to add some volume to it (read: make it go further so it can coat all the veggies!)
- When the pasta is practically done, throw in the zucchini and peas. The idea here is just to blanche them, not to boil them.
- When the water comes back to the boil, drain the whole lot. Place the drained pasta and vegetables back into the warm pasta pot and toss with the dressing. I used tongs to lift up the ingredients and make sure they all had a splash of the dressing.
- Immediately place into a pasta plate, sprinkle with the crumbled cheese and herbs, maybe some more black pepper and enjoy while piping hot.
If this was your first experiment with anchovy fillets, leave a comment and share how you found them! You’re also welcome to share any changes that you made and loved.