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Spaghetti with Anchovies, Tomatoes, and Parsley

Renée Robinson

Bursting with Flavor and It’s Made Quickly. I Promise.

This is the pasta I make when the day has gotten away from me and I need to get a meal on – pronto. I first made this many years ago when I was homeschooling my son and we found ourselves starved in the middle of the day and were craving pasta. I made it with what I had on hand and I’ve never changed anything since that time.

You know how irritating it is to be told a recipe can be made in 30 minutes, and then it ends up taking at least an hour? Or more? This one is made in the amount of time it takes to boil the pot of water and cook the pasta. I promise.

As to the flavors, well, I don’t recommend this recipe for those who are anchovy averse because anchovies are the standout flavor here. A whole tin is used, along with some chopped garlic, hot pepper flakes, and a 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes. This simmers for a few minutes while the pasta is cooking.

Cooking DownTomatoes

The other most important ingredient is flat leaf parsley. You need a large bunch. If the bunches look a little scrawny, buy two. All of the chopped parsley is added at the very end and is needed to balance out the other flavors. It’s essential. This isn’t a puttanesca. No olives or capers are needed for their briny flavors. There’s already plenty going on with the anchovies and the rest of the ingredients.

The parsley provides an herbal freshness that gives this dish its unique flavor. As you can see, it’s not swimming in sauce. It’s not that kind of pasta dish. Each bite is packed with a ton of flavor and tastes rich, but clean. I can never get enough of this. A little pecorino on top is all that’s needed and it remains one of my favorites.

Spaghetti with Anchovies, Tomatoes, and Parsley

Recipe by Renée Robinson



The quick and easy perfect dish of spaghetti. A can of diced tomatoes, a tin of anchovies, chopped garlic, and an entire bunch of chopped parsley make for an exceptionally great meal.

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  • 1 pound dried spaghetti

  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2 ounce tin of anchovies, drained and minced, reserving the oil

  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

  • Small pinch of granulated sugar

  • 1 large bunch of parsley, leaves and tender stems, chopped

  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

  • grated pecorino cheese, as much as you'd like


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until the al dente stage and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  • In the meantime, put the reserved anchovy oil and 2 tablespoons olive oil In a large skillet. Add the garlic, anchovies and hot pepper flakes and place over medium low heat. Cook until the oil starts to sizzle and the anchovies have more or less melted into the oil, being careful to not let the garlic burn. Add the diced tomatoes, juice and all. Let cook for a few minutes, until the liquid cooks down a bit. Stir in a small pinch of sugar and a healthy amount of black pepper. Taste for seasoning. It's doubtful you will need to add any salt, but it is sometimes necessary, depending on the brand of anchovies used.
  • Add the drained pasta to the pan of sauce. Toss and stir, adding the pasta cooking water if it seems a little dry. Add the parsley at the end while reserving a couple tablespoons to sprinkle on each serving. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, more black pepper and the pecorino cheese. Enjoy!

14 Responses

  1. I loved this recipe for 2 reasons. First, it’s simply delicious and second, it’s super easy and fast. Complex, yummy flavors with minimal effort. And there’s possibly a third reason. I think this recipe is probably adaptable too. Maybe adding capers, kalamata olives, or even topped or served along side of seared scallops. A real contrast of flavors. Yummy for all the right reasons. Thanks, Renee!

    1. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe, too, Meg. And you’re correct about the adaptability aspect. This is one of those recipes that works perfectly as is, but would be very easy to make your own. Thank you and you’re very welcome!

    1. Sherie, I’ve been making it for many many years and I’ve never found it necessary to change a single thing. And it couldn’t be simpler. It truly is a 30 minute recipe. Thank you!

  2. Well I had the same question in my mind that Denise asked. Could I sub in spinach for some of the parsley? In my case the “why?” is because as soon as I saw Sherie Robins’ post of this dish on the Milk Street Community I wanted to make it NOW, and I had all the ingredients – except that my parsley was just the littlest bit leftover from a bunch I bought two weeks ago! I don’t know when the next time is that I’ll get to the store, but I have three beautiful bags of spinach from our CSA farmshare delivery. But…I saw your answer. It won’t really do.

    In my mind, the essential thing that parsley usually adds to a dish is an assertive freshness, so I mentally scanned my garden to try to think of something that might do the trick (we’re in Maine – it’s pretty weird that it’s not still covered in snow but even being bare there’s not much in it yet but chives – and my parsley is still in flats on the livingroom window shelf and only barely has its first true leaves) and then I thought, “Dandelion greens!” To me they play that same role in a dish – sometimes even better. So I went out and dug a bunch (that is how I do my spring weeding of the dandelions – pick them and eat them before they bloom). I cleaned them and chopped them and added them to the measly pile of parsley – and into the spaghetti it went. And it was really delicious!

    I do look forward to making it another time with a big bunch of parsley, though.

    And how nice to use a whole can of anchovies and not have to figure out what to do with the other half of it. We were very happy with the result.

    1. Well, how great is this?? I love dandelion greens, too, and I’ll be they were delicious in the spaghetti. I wholeheartedly applaud your inventiveness! But you’re right. Parsley adds a very fresh grassy taste that I think you’ll enjoy. I love the thought of all those herbs sitting on your window sill. I’m so happy to hear you appreciate the use of the entire tin of anchovies. I feel the same way. Thank you, Cynthia!

      1. We ate the leftovers last night. By chance I had to go out yesterday and do a significant drive, so I stopped at a grocery store and grabbed a beautiful bunch of parsley which I chopped and added after reheating the leftovers. The dandelion greens were quite good but you are right that parsley is the perfect taste with this dish.

        1. Glad to hear you were able to taste it with the parsley. It really does make the dish, doesn’t it? So happy you’ve enjoyed it!

    1. Hi, Denise. As to substituting spinach for the parsley, I’m wondering why. Is there an allergy involved? The reason I ask is because the grassiness of the flavor profile of parsley plays a big role in the outcome of this dish. I’m thinking spinach could be used, but the final flavor won’t be the same. I think it would still be good, but I think I’d also add a squeeze of lemon juice when you toss in the spinach. You’ll need a little boost to brighten the flavor. Please let me know how this works out for you. Thank you!

  3. I have made it. I’m reporting back. How shall I put this. If I could eat this once a week, I would. And I just might.

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