Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Okay, so let me cut right to the chase by saying I am NOT an anchovy person.  I am so much not an anchovy person that I make the Southern husband open the anchovy can so I don’t accidentally get any anchovy oil on my fingers.

I am so much not an anchovy person that when someone else even suggests getting anchovies on even a portion of a pizza that I will be sharing I give them a look that suggests that ordering anchovies on pizza might be the end of the civilized world as we know it.

What am I doing putting anchovies in perfectly good spaghetti then?  I honestly don’t know, other than the fact that I, completely illogically in every way, actually LIKE a tiny bit of the anchovy taste in Caesar salad, and there was something about the idea of mixing that slight anchovy taste with olive oil and garlic and walnuts and parmesan cheese and parsley that made me throw caution to the wind and buy one of those little containers of anchovies.  After all, it only called for using four of the teeny little anchovy strips in the entire recipe, and the recipe called for mashing them into the hot olive oil until they broke down and melted into the oil.

I can get into ANYTHING that melts into olive oil, so I mustered up my courage and went for it.  (While still making the Southern husband open the can, just to be perfectly clear.)  And I have to say, it was absolutely, perfectly, mesmerizingly delicious…one of those pasta dishes where you twirl the first bite around your fork, put it in your mouth, and then have to close your eyes at the sheer heaven of it all.  

Anchovies, I owe you an apology.  I am truly, deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart.
I still want my pizza plain though.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies, from The New York Times

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies
  • ½ cup shelled walnuts (2 ounces)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ pound spaghetti
  • ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup freshly grated pecorino (optional)
  1. Begin heating a large pot of water over high heat. Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnuts on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven for just a few minutes until fragrant, or in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the walnuts smell like they’re beginning to toast, remove them from the heat and transfer to a clean dish towel. Wrap them in the towel, and rub between your hands to remove some of the papery shells. Chop the nuts medium-fine, and set aside.
  2. In a wide, heavy skillet or saucepan large enough to accommodate the cooked spaghetti, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle, and add the anchovies. Cook, mashing the anchovies with the back of your spoon or with a fork, for about 30 seconds until they begin to fall apart and melt into the oil. Add the walnuts, stir together for about a minute and remove from the heat.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the spaghetti. Cook al dente, following the timing recommendations on the package but checking about a minute before the indicated time. When the pasta is almost done, add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan with the walnuts and anchovies, and reheat over medium heat.
  4. When the pasta is ready, drain and toss with the walnut and anchovy mixture. Add the parsley, adjust salt if necessary and add pepper. Serve, passing the pecorino at the table.


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  1. Valerie says

    May I suggest anchovy paste? It's wonderful! Tastes the exact same and stores in the fridge with no mess, always on hand. Love it! Now I have a new recipie to put it to use – thanks!

  2. Joanne says

    I constantly find myself making recipes with ingredients I don't like. It's so weird.

    Anchovies really can MAKE a sauce. I was weird about them for a while, but now I can totally handle them melted into dishes. I'm still not an anchovies-on-pizza gal. I probably never will be.

  3. LaTonya @ Haute Cookture says

    I've always had this love hate relationship with anchovies too. Like you, with the exception of a caesar salad mildly flavored with them, I Absolutely wanted nothing to do with anchovies….until I actually made a warm bacon and egg salad that was featured in last months food and wine mag. Thanks to that wonderful recipe I'm a lot more open minded about them.

    Can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing:)

  4. aBroad says

    I believe that there is a Time and a Place for anchovies and pizza is not one of the places .. I don't love them in salads but on pasta , Yes ! This looks so easy .. I will now go hunt a wild anchovie in the South American outback and see what I come up with :)

  5. Cornell P. Landry says

    I am a fan of Anchovies. So, therefore I cannot wait to try this one. For some people who aren't fans, I recommend adding a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce instead (since one of the main ingredients in the sauce is anchovies). I think if you look up the "original" Caesar Salad recipe of Chef Caesar Cardini, it shows that he didn't use anchovies.

    Another great spaghetti recipe that I love is "Spaghetti Collins" from Pascal Manale's in New Orleans. Light sauce. Worth looking up. Doesn't use Anchovies.

  6. Carmie of the Single Nester says

    I find that anchovies add a little sumthin' sumthin' to a dish. A meal is always elevated with it.

  7. FramedCooks says

    Anchovy paste – I'm on it! I just made another anchovy dish tonight – pasta with roasted tomatoes and anchoby oreganata. I'm obsessed!

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