This simple pantry pasta is sure to be a family favourite

This weekday dish gets flavour and texture from garlic- and anchovy-infused breadcrumbs

Pantry pasta: we never tire of the way the crunchy, garlic- and anchovy-infused crumbs contrast with the springy, buttery pasta. Photograph: Melissa Clark/New York Times

Pantry pasta: we never tire of the way the crunchy, garlic- and anchovy-infused crumbs contrast with the springy, buttery pasta. Photograph: Melissa Clark/New York Times

 

Even before my husband started baking his own sourdough loaves, I was already the kind of cook who made crumbs out of stale bread heels.

But now that his once-in-a-while pursuit has become a weekly habit, we can eat our favourite pantry pasta with garlicky breadcrumbs whenever we want. And we never tire of the way the crunchy, garlic- and anchovy-infused crumbs contrast with the springy, buttery pasta.

To make enough for four to six servings, start with about 100g of dry crumbs. (I make mine by pushing the dried bread bits through the grating disc of the food processor, then blitzing with the metal blade for a few pulses.)

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, adding just enough oil to coat the bottom in an even slick. Add four to six chopped anchovy fillets, and stir them until they dissolve – about one minute. Wear an apron, because they will splatter all over you. Add four to six minced or grated garlic cloves, and stir until you can smell them – about 30 seconds longer.

Now add your breadcrumbs, either home-made or store-bought. (Panko is a good choice here.) If you like, you can also add a big pinch or two of red-pepper flakes and some grated lemon zest. Lower the heat to medium so the crumbs don’t burn, and toss them around in the pan until they turn one or two shades darker – about five minutes more. Scrape them on to a plate and, after they are cool enough not to burn your tongue, taste and season generously with salt and pepper.

You can fry them as the pasta water is coming to a boil but also earlier in the day or even a week ahead. Keep a jar of them in the fridge, then heat them up in a frying pan until you smell the garlic.

Pantry pasta: be grateful that stale bread can yield such riches as this. Photograph: Melissa Clark/New York Times
Pantry pasta: be grateful that stale bread can yield such riches as this. Photograph: Melissa Clark/New York Times

Cook about 500g of pasta, any shape, in salted water until al dente (usually a minute or two less than the package says). I love to use short, curly noodles, so the nooks catch the crumbs. But long strands like bucatini work, too.

Before draining, dip a mug into the pasta water and save some. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot. Add a lump of butter, a splash of pasta water, about 15g or 20g of chopped herbs (parsley, chives, dill, mint, basil or a combination of whatever you’ve got) and the crumbs, tossing well. If the pasta seems unpleasantly dry, splash in some more pasta water, butter or both. Sometimes I’ll also add sauteed onions, mushrooms, peppers or fresh chopped tomato to the pot. But they’re not at all necessary.

Top each serving with a good squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of your best olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. And be grateful that stale bread can yield such riches as this. – New York Times

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