Blow Off Some Steam With Extra-Anchovy Pasta With Kale

A pasta dish that crushes it.
A pasta dish that crushes it.

This past year has been nothing short of cataclysmic. So, you’d be forgiven if there have been moments when all you wanted to do was cry, curse, curl up in a ball or crush something into smithereens.

At a time when we could all welcome some relief comes the new cookbook, “Steamed: A Catharsis Cookbook for Getting Dinner and Your Feelings On the Table’ (Running Press), of which I received a review copy. It encourages you to pound, pulverize, and rip apart your pent-up pandemic aggression — in a tongue-and-cheek way, of course — while cooking up some tasty dishes along the way.

This wonderfully irreverent cookbook was written by Rachel Levin, a freelance food writer who was Eater’s first restaurant critic; and Tara Duggan, a veteran food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, who now covers climate and environmental issues.

This recipe lets you blow off some steam by smashing croutons to smithereens.
This recipe lets you blow off some steam by smashing croutons to smithereens.

With humorous illustrations by Los Angeles designer Stephanie DeAngelis, the book includes 50 recipes sure to brighten any mood. Get your frustration out with “Whacked Lemongrass Chicken Coconut Curry,” “Pummeled Pork Tonkatsu,” “Cry-It-Out Alsatian Tart,” and “DIY Cannabutter” (which is exactly what you think it is).

I couldn’t resist “Extra-Anchovy Pasta with Kale,” because nothing soothes me like a bountiful bowl of carbs, not to mention that kale is one thing this less-than-green thumb manages to grow successfully in the backyard. I am also an unabashed anchovy lover.

Moreover, this recipe gave me the excuse to pull out my meat mallet to go all whack-a-mole on a pile of croutons. You can either buy croutons or make your own by just splashing some bread cubes with olive oil, and toasting in a 375-degree oven until crisp, about 15 minutes. The resulting crumbs get sprinkled atop the penne that’s tossed with shredded kale, garlic, and a whole tin of anchovies.

In fact, I used some of the oil from the anchovy tin in place of some of the extra-virgin olive oil called for in the recipe. I also used some green garlic instead of the regular garlic cloves. Even with the abundance of anchovies, this pasta is not overly salty tasting or unappealingly fishy in any way. Instead, there’s a load of delectable briny umami that is balanced by the slightly bitter, minerality of the kale. A pinch of red pepper flakes steps up to provide just a whisper of heat, and a dusting of Parmesan provides a nutty cheesiness to tie everything together.

Best yet, this is a largely from-the-pantry dish that can be made anytime you long for a taste of comfort — or need an excuse to bash something harmlessly.

Get your daily dose of greens in a dish that's full of crunch and umami.
Get your daily dose of greens in a dish that’s full of crunch and umami.

Extra-Anchovy Pasta with Kale

(Serves 4)

Salt

12 ounces short pasta, such as fusilli or penne rigate (the kind with the ridges)

1 bunch kale (dinosaur kale if you can find it)

1 cup good-quality Parmesan-garlic croutons

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (or use some of the oil from the tin of anchovies)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Pinch or two of red pepper flakes

8 anchovy fillets

Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for grating

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil (we’re talking salty), like: count to three while pouring your salt in the pot so that it almost tastes like tears). Add the pasta and cook until just short of al dente, 1 to 2 minutes less than the package cooking directions say. When draining, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the water.

Meanwhile, remove any thick stems from the kale, tearing off the leaves in strips, and cut the strips into 1-inch pieces. Place the croutons on a cutting board and crush them with the bottom of a large pot until they’re like crispy bread crumbs. (You can also put the croutons in a resealable plastic bag, then pound with a meat mallet to create crumbs.)

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to get the flavor in the oil, 30 seconds. Gradually add the kale and toss to coat in the oil, adding more as the leaves wilt and make way in the pan. Continue to cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Make room in the middle of the pan, add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil, and add the anchovy fillets in a single layer on the oil. Allow them to cook until they just start to dissolve, using your spoon to crush them lightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir together with the greens, then stir in the cooked pasta to coat. Add enough of the reserved pasta water — 1 cup to start — to make a thin sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir the pasta gently until it is fully cooked, adding more water if needed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Season the pasta to taste with salt and more red pepper flakes, then divide among pasta bowls. Top with the crushed croutons, a drizzle of olive oil, and some Pecorino cheese.

Note: If you don’t have croutons, just top the bowls with a cloud of grated Parmesan or Pecorino.

Adapted From “Steamed” by Rachel Levin and Tara Duggan

Another Tara Duggan Recipe to Enjoy: Quinoa-Carrot Tabbouleh

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