Law school is taking its toll on my health, and it seems hellbent on taking a different toll every semester. Last semester my iron levels were wonky; I ate a lot of spinach and dreamed of rare steak. This semester appears to be all about omega-3's: I crave eggs and nuts and, above all, fish. There's a little voice in my head saying "fishfishfishfishfishfishfish," and it doesn't seem inclined to stop anytime soon. It's a fussy little voice, too. White fish makes it quieter, and salmon lulls it to sleep for a little while, but the only things that really shut it up are anchovies and sardines.
Fortunately, my friends are tolerant of my dietary eccentricities, and they've been remarkably willing to go along with the various fish pastas I've been making recently. This is the latest, inspired by some of the things I read when I did a Google search for anchovy pasta recipes.
Despite its pungent ingredients, this is really quite a polite, almost demure pasta. The garlic and anchovies are tempered by the vodka and lemon juice, and rounded out by the sweetness of the fennel. You can serve it to company if your company doesn't object to fish; it even has an appropriately elegant Italian name. If your friends are like mine, however, you'll refer to it as fishy pasta, and call it good.
Linguine con Alici, Finnochio, e Sarde
For a heavier sauce, substitute a 16-ounce can of crushed tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes.
(Serves four as a main course, or one with lots of leftovers.)
Put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, heat a small quantity of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Add a can of anchovies in olive oil. Mince four cloves of garlic and add them to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies. Slice up one medium fennel bulb, and add it to the pan when the garlic starts to smell fragrant.
Cook until the fennel softens, then add a splash of vodka and the juice from half a lemon. When the fumes have burned off, add a pint of halved cherry tomatoes.
Simmer until the tomatoes are softened. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and three cans of sardines in olive oil. Break the sardines into small pieces and simmer further. Depending on how salty your anchovies are, you may or may not need to add salt.
When the water has reached a rolling boil, add a pound of linguine. Cook until al dente, then toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.
Note: You can also add capers in vinegar or thin shreds of fresh basil to this pasta, depending on the contents of your fridge.