I’ve always loved watching people. Barring more fun activities, I’m usually happy to sit in a hotel lobby or at an airport terminal imagining the lives of people who flit in and out of view as they go on about their busy lives. Where are they going? What are they like? Are they happy?
When I travel, I like to walk the village streets. As I walk by front doors I wonder what the people’s lives are like who live behind them. In the evenings I like to catch glimpses of families having dinner or watching television. While we live in different parts of the world, at the core we human beings are largely alike.
Is this innocent curiosity or just downright nosiness? Hoping for the former, I’d like to think that this is just a function of growing up extremely shy–I grew up much more comfortable being an observer rather than being the center of attention. And yes, I’ve overcome the extreme shyness (mostly). These days, with people I’m comfortable with, I can be a loquacious pest but I still enjoy “people watching” as an activity.
So to be fair, I’ll share with you a dish that shows up frequently beyond my own front door. It takes no time to prepare, it’s full of flavor and it’s pasta–need I say more? It’s ideal for busy days because most of the ingredients are pantry items and flexible is this dish’s middle name. Add or remove one or two components, you will still have a flavorful meal. In my home however, the olives, capers and anchovies are the stars of this dish. Each one is flavorful in its own right but together they provide a boldness that you couldn’t achieve otherwise. Savory, salty, and a little tart–the flavors will win you over and have your taste buds smiling.
Spaghetti with Olives, Capers and Anchovies
- 10 – 12 anchovy fillets (I even throw in some of the anchovy-infused oil)
- 4 – 5 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped (I used Mezzzeta olives)
- 1 heaping tablespoon capers
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Chopped parsley
- Dried chili flakes
- Juice of half a lemon
- salt, to taste
- olive oil
- 1 pound spaghetti
The preparation of this dish is very flexible. I don’t always add the ingredients in the same order (and I only add the when it’s handy) so just use the following instructions as a guide.
Cook the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water.
Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. I started with about 1/4 – 1/3 cup–this will be your “sauce” so don’t fear the quantity. Add the anchovies cook for a couple of minutes. Before they start to dissolve into the hot oil, add the chili flakes and chopped garlic. Don’t let the garlic burn. Keep the heat on med-low.
Next, add the olives, capers and chives. After a minute, add the the wine and allow to cook for about two minutes. You can turn up the heat a little at this point. When the wine has reduced a bit, add the chicken stock and the juice of half a lemon. The lemon balances out the saltiness of the main ingredients.
At this point, I added a bit more garlic to my pan but it’s completely optional. Add the butter and some chopped parsley and simmer until the pasta is ready. Taste the sauce. It will not look like much but it will be enough for one pound of pasta. I sprinkled a bit more olive oil here and there but it’s not necessary. Add some salt if you think it needs it. More lemon or stock. You be the judge.
Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Toss until the pasta is coated well and plate. Top with parmigiano reggiano and more chopped parsley if desired and serve. Enjoy!