Pasta With Anchovies and Breadcrumbs Recipe

Pasta with anchovies and garlic breadcrumbs

The Spruce Eats / Diana Rattray

Prep: 12 mins
Cook: 16 mins
Total: 28 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yield: 12 ounces pasta
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
671 Calories
25g Fat
91g Carbs
19g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 671
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 33%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 9mg 3%
Sodium 2005mg 87%
Total Carbohydrate 91g 33%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 19g
Vitamin C 6mg 28%
Calcium 167mg 13%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 329mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A few oil-packed anchovies, fresh breadcrumbs, garlic, seasonings, and olive oil, make this Sicilian-style pasta dish a delicious weeknight meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. This version includes spaghetti, but bucatini, linguine, or another long pasta would do just fine.

Anchovies are fish, and when eaten alone, they taste like fish, but the saltiness and umami flavor stand out when incorporated into a pasta sauce. This recipe uses that funky saltiness to make a simple sauce with a complex flavor.

The breadcrumbs add flavor and texture to the dish, and they are quick and easy to make with a few slices of sourdough or another hearty day-old bread. Cut off the crusts, toss them in the food processor with some minced garlic, and pulse them to make coarse breadcrumbs. Then you'll cook the breadcrumbs in olive oil until lightly browned and crisp—the perfect garlicky topping for a pasta dish!

Sauteéd anchovy fillets and crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil provide a simple flavor profile for the dish. It couldn't be easier!


For the Breadcrumbs:

  • 7 ounces day-old bread, about 4 slices

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional

For the Pasta:

  • 12 ounces dry spaghetti, or lingine or bucatini

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt for the cooking water, plus more to taste

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 large garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise

  • 3 anchovy fillets, oil-packed

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional

  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste

For Serving:

  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather all ingredients.

  2. Fill a large pot with about 5 quarts of water and bring it to a boil over high heat.

  3. While the water is heating, remove the crusts from the bread and tear it or cut it into cubes.

  4. Put bread cubes, 5 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt in a food processor and pulse to make coarse breadcrumbs. You should have about 2 cups of crumbs.

  5. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.

  6. Toss with the lemon zest, if using. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl and set aside.

  7. Meanwhile, add the pasta and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt to the boiling water and cook following the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.

  8. Wipe out the pot used for the breadcrumbs and heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 halved cloves of garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Remove and discard the garlic pieces. 

  9. Add the mashed anchovies and crushed red pepper to the garlic-flavored oil and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the lemon juice, if using. 

  10. Add the hot cooked pasta to the pan and toss, cooking, until hot. Add extra cooking water, as needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

  11. Plate the spaghetti in wide, shallow pasta bowls and top with a generous amount of garlic breadcrumbs. Garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese, if using.

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover pasta and the breadcrumbs in separate, covered containers for up to 4 days.
  • Reheat the pasta with a small amount of water in a saucepan or skillet over medium heat until hot, stirring frequently. Alternatively, put the pasta in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on full power for about 45 seconds. Stir and continue heating, stirring in 30-second intervals, until hot.
  • To reheat the breadcrumbs, heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, tossing, for about 2 minutes, until hot.

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of dried crushed red pepper flakes, add about 2 to 3 teaspoons of crushed Calabrian chiles in oil.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of rinsed and drained capers to the oil mixture along with the red pepper flakes.
  • While they won't be as coarse, you may use store-bought breadcrumbs instead of fresh ones. Skip step 3 and 4. In step 5, sauté the minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the dry breadcrumbs and toss with the oil mixture. Add lemon zest, if using, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Remove the crumbs to a bowl and set them aside.