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Spaghetti con Alici
Spaghetti con Alici (Spaghetti with Anchovies)
Originated from: Termoli, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Fridays
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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1 lb spaghetti, home-made or store-bought
3/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 fillets of anchovies
3/4 cup Pecorino cheese, grated

Large pot of water for cooking spaghetti


o Bring a large pot of water to boil.

o Cut anchovies into 1/4 inch pieces.

o Chop garlic.

o Heat up oil and fry garlic until a light golden color.

o Add anchovies. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add pepper.

o Cook spaghetti to desired tenderness. Drain.

o In a large bowl toss the spaghetti in half the prepared sauce.

o Arrange tossed spaghetti in individual bowls.

o Add extra sauce in each bowl. Top with grated cheese.

o Serve warm.


Nowadays, spaghetti dishes, especially meatless ones, are thought of as "poor people's food." However, prior to World War II, this was definitely not so -- unless, of course, one was a fisherman and/or living by the coast. Those living in the Molisani interior and making their living off the land avoided using any ingredients in their cooking that they themselves did not grow (including salt, sugar and honey). So, prior to World War II, subsistence farmers might do "spaghetti con alici" on Christmas Eve or on Good Friday but they would not do it any old time. Also, back then, spaghetti was perceived as a festive pasta, as it took a great deal of effort to make (No pasta makers in use!). Store-bought spaghetti was available in the larger towns and many cooks took advantage of this. However, using store-bought spaghetti increased the cost of a meal. So the poor would not have availed themselves to it. In fact, at my maternal grandmother's house, Nonna Seppe, "spaghetti con alici" was never ever served. It was just too expensive. Hard to believe, but so it was.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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