Pasta with anchovy, broccoli, chilli and garlic

This month’s post is from Sonal Dack – a friend who has been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while and a fellow lover of ‘real’ food. I think you’ll agree that Sonal has a lovely, friendly tone and can vouch for the tasty dish that she has kindly shared…

Guest blogger – Sonal Dack

I think about food all the time. I’m interested in so many aspects: how the way we cook and eat has changed over time, the science of cooking, how food has the power to change the way we feel both physically and emotionally and yes, what am I going to eat next?. That’s not even scratching the surface!

That’s a lot of thinking, and I figured it was time I started writing some of it down.

But where to start? Writing about every food thought in my head could get messy so I decided I’d focus on the main themes of how I cook and eat, that’s to say:

Cooking up tasty food, often against the clock.

Making things that do body and spirit good without getting too faddy.

Not blowing the budget.

At least that’s the aim, and I think my first recipe covers all three. I’d love to know how it goes down so feel free to tweet me @sonaldack and let me know what you think!

Pasta with anchovy, broccoli, chilli and garlic (feeds four adults)

This isn’t an original recipe. I think I first came across it watching Jamie’s thirty-minute meals where he used tender stem broccoli – more expensive and usually has more food miles. I use good old regular broccoli and I’m hooked. I’m also told that the usual pasta shape of choice is Orrechiette, not too hard to find but usually more expensive than more widely available shapes. I’ve tried plenty of shapes and it doesn’t make a huge difference, so don’t go out of your way to buy a speciality shape. Fusilli is just as good, or anything that sauce can cling to. The dish stands up to alternative pastas too so use a pasta to suit your dietary requirements.


I could wax on all day about how much I love this meal. The speed and ease needed to make it completely belie how satisfying and tasty it is. It’s cheap to make and uses every part of a head of broccoli so I can do the zero food waste jig of joy when I make this!  – Scary food klaxon – You need anchovies. A good 6 fat fillets to feed four people, but I speak as a former anchovy sceptic when I say they are what makes the dish. By all means start with less and work your way up but please don’t leave them out. You’ll have no regrets (unless of course you’re a veggie!)


  • 350-400g head of broccoli
  • 1-2 tablespoons mild olive oil
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 3-4 fat, peeled cloves garlic (by fat I mean about the size of your thumb from tip to first knuckle. I like garlic so tend to scale up. Feel free to go easy if you wish.)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 40g parmesan cheese (plus more to grate on top if you wish)
  • Optional – Extra virgin olive oil – just a splash
  • 300-350g of pasta
  • 1 teaspoon table salt



  1. Cut the florets off the stalk of the broccoli so they are all roughly the same size (each floret to be about the size of a button mushroom). Cut the tough part of the stalk off and discard. Cut the stalk up into processor friendly chunks or leave whole if you’re not using a processor/chopper.
  2. If you have a mini chopper then process the stalk with the garlic until you have a fine mush, it will be a dry mush but mush all the same. You might have to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your chopper. If you don’t have a chopper, grate the broccoli on the fine side of a grater and crush/grate/finely chop the garlic.
  3. Fill pan with boiling water and get it on the hob with a teaspoonful of salt. Your water will season the pasta and will also be used to bring the sauce together at the end so don’t be too timid on the salt front. As soon as the water is up to a rolling boil add your pasta, give it a stir and bring back to the boil. Cook for one minute less than the packet instructions say. About three minutes before the end of the cooking time, add your broccoli florets to the pasta.
  4. Put a frying pan/wok on a medium heat. Add the regular olive oil and the anchovies (I add the anchovies to cold oil to prevent them burning. Plus they seem to break down a little better). As the anchovies start to warm up and break down stir them into the oil so you have a warm oily anchovy paste. Don’t worry if you have a few larger pieces of anchovies. Keep the heat on medium and just keep stirring them until they’ve mostly broken down. You’ll start to smell the anchovies and they’ll be sizzling gently – did I mention you should get the extractor fan on/window open? J
  5. Add your garlic-broccoli mush and the chilli flakes to the oil. Season the whole lot with pepper not salt and stir everything together. You want to cook this mixture down so that you have an aromatic beigy-green mush flecked with red. Add water from your pasta pot if you feel it needs a little lubrication to help it along. It should take about ten minutes at a medium-low heat with the occasional stir to stop it catching.
  6. By now your pasta and broccoli will be ready. Both will be slightly underdone. This is exactly what you want. Before you drain the pan dip a mug in and collect some of the water. Drain the entire contents and add to your pan of sauce. It will look like there is not enough sauce but it is very flavourful and will be enough.
  7. Add a big splash of the pasta cooking water to start, plus your Parmesan and a glug of extra virgin olive oil if using. Stir everything together, taking care not to break the broccoli up too much. It will break up a little bit and that’s fine. Mix until the pasta and broccoli florets are nicely coated. You will need to add water as you go but add very gradually so you don’t flood everything. You don’t need to rush as the pasta and broccoli are undercooked to give you time. They’ll just finish cooking as you bring everything together.
  8. Taste a piece of pasta and add chilli flakes/seasoning to taste.
  9. Spoon up into bowls, add more Parmesan on top and serve immediately.



For vegetarians. You can take out the anchovies but it will be a very different dish. I have ground up dry mushrooms in a pestle and mortar for vegetarian diners and of course used vegetarian parmesan. Not quite the same but it went down well! If there are any vegans out there who are experimenting with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan and anchovies, I’d love to know how you get on.

I’ve written the sequence with less confident cooks in mind. Once you get the hang of the recipe or if you are more confident you can speed the process up by getting the pasta on first and whizzing through the steps for the sauce.

This also works really well with the green foodstuff of the moment, Kale. You can just cook anchovies, garlic and chilli together and add your kale to the pasta about 1-2 minutes before the pasta is done and continue in the same way. Just chop/tear up the kale into shovel-straight in- mouth-friendly pieces.

I tried this with frozen broccoli to see if I could produce the same dish for a lower price. It doesn’t work because there’s no stalkage but by happy coincidence I discovered if you make a mixed mash that’s heavy on some cooked frozen broccoli and stir through fried garlic, anchovies and chilli, it is all kinds of yum with some grilled lamb.

If you like Sonal’s style of writing and would like to hear more then you can follow her on Twitter @sonaldac


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