Cookies from Southern Italy
Jun 192011

Now is the time of the year when anchovies show up at the fish market. And it’s also the time when wild fennel grows in California. During May and June I pick the fronds and use them in various dishes (here is a recipe that I prepared last year using wild fennel), but my favorite is a pasta dish that combines wild fennel with fresh anchovies. The recipe didn’t make it into my book, so I can give it to you!

Wild fennel fronds:

If you can’t find wild fennel fronds follow the recipe below that uses fresh parsley. But it’s the addition of the wild fennel that really makes it.

Here’s the finished sauce.

Spaghetti tossed with the sauce:

The video below shows you how to clean anchovies. Lots of people don’t like to clean fresh anchovies or sardines because it is time-consuming, but it is well worth the effort.


Spaghetti con Alici Fresche

Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

For a printable recipe click here

This quick anchovy and tomato sauce is similar to the one I make with swordfish in my cookbook; you can prepare it in the time it takes to cook the pasta.  You are not making a thick, long-simmered tomato sauce here but a fresh, light, summery sauce with recognizable pieces of tomato and anchovy. Sometimes I omit the tomato entirely, making the dish in bianco.  If you can’t find fresh anchovies, you can substitute fresh sardines. They are larger and will take a little longer to cook.

1-1/2 pounds (675 grams) fresh anchovies

1 pound (450 grams) spaghetti, bucatini, or linguine

1/4 cup (60 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small fresh hot red peppers, such as cayenne or Thai, minced (optional)

1  pound (450 grams) cherry tomatoes, halved

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons chopped wild fennel (or chopped flat leaf parsley, if wild fennel is not in season)


Clean the anchovies as shown in the video above. Separate each boneless anchovy into 2 fillets.

Bring 5 quarts (5 liters) of water to a boil in an 8-quart (8-liter) pot over high heat. Add 1/4 cup (35 grams) kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and hot peppers and cook briefly to release the garlic fragrance without browning it.  Next add the chopped wild fennel (if substituting the parsley in place of the fennel, add it at the end of cooking the sauce).  Turn the heat to high and add the anchovy fillets and cook for about 45 seconds until the anchovies are white. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring just long enough to soften the tomatoes and draw out some of their juices, about one minute. Stir in the parsley (if not using the wild fennel).Set aside 1 cup (250 milliliters) of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot. Add the sauce and toss gently, moistening if necessary with some of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately.


Serves 4 to 6.

  13 Responses to “Spaghetti con Alici Fresche (Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies)”


    Where are fresh or canned anchovies of above size available in Portland area??


    I live in the SF Bay Area so I am not familiar with the Portland area. Start asking your fishmonger and see if he can get some for you. As for the canned ones, I like Recca salted anchovies. Here is a link on Amazon for the Recca salted anchovies:


    I would love to make this dish with fresh anchovies as up to now all I have prepared it with was canned one, and the salt added to them makes it a recipe I have to limit as I am trying to limit my salt intake. I have no problem cleaning fresh calamari so I imagine I can handle cleaning these!

    I love your cookbook, Rosetta, and I have to tell you that my native born Calabrian husband has had a sweet tears of memory in his eyes of his mother and his upbringing when he has read some of your stories in the cookbook. Thank you so much for your wonderful research and the time you devoted to it –it is a treasure!


    Thank you for the video on cleaning the fish. It looks pretty easy, I think I will give it a try.


    Glad to hear that the video was useful.


    Thank you for letting me know that your Calabrian husband enjoyed reading my book. It means a lot to me when I hear that a Calabrese loved the book. Keep our traditions alive and pass them on to the next generation.


    This recipe reminded me of what my mother from Spain used to make for us…but fresh anchovies were difficult to find and she would substitute fresh smelt. She used the fresh tomatoes, too. I loved it as a child. I have never had fresh anchovies, though. How different do you think the taste of fresh anchovies is from the taste of fresh smelt? Fresh smelt is fairly easy to find here.



    I have never tried it with smelts since I am able to find fresh anchovies and sardines. You should give it a try and see how it turns out.


    Congratulations for the blog and the book, which I have just discovered and am eager to acquire. I’m a Spanish guy living right now in Japan and, coming from Andalucía, I feel somehow the gastronomy display in this book very familiar, very ingrained in my culinary memories… You know the mediterranean thing. I’m looking forward to read the book and new updates.

    P.S.. Sorry for my English!


    Hi Rosetta. Just curious as I’ve never had wild fennel. Why not substitute regular fennel (or the fronds from the bulbs)? Is the taste very different?

    PS. I love your book! Your recipes bring back so many memories of my Nonna’s kitchen. Thank you so much!


    I wish this dish was served more in restaurants! I understand the idea that it may not be as popular, but I think it’s a must-try dish!


    Dear Rosetta,

    I am very happy to find your web site. My mother is from Bisignano (Cosenza) and my father is from Agropoli (Salerno). I was looking for turdilli and happened upon your blog. Here in San Jose, we have imbigliudate (your pitta ‘mpigliata) every year along with the strufoli that my mother learned to make from my aunts in Agropoli when we lived there, but I haven’t had turdilli since my Nonna Assunta passed away.

    I look fwd to reading more of your blog, especially regarding the making of salumi, which we haven’t done in a few years but I plan to start doing again soon.

    Oh yeah, the point of my note…do you happen to know where I can find fresh anchovies? Maybe close to San Jose?



    the fronds of the wild fennel are very different in taste from the cultivated one. The cultivated fennel fronds have no flavor if any at all.

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