Bucatini with Anchovies and Fennel

Next up is Bucatini with Anchovies, Parmesan and Fennel Seeds. If you are not an anchovy-lover (I am only a moderate partaker of said fish) do not be put off - it's not like you are eating big hunks of hairy, salty, boney fish ( ahem - if you love anchovies, you can totally do this by putting a couple of whole ones on top!!!), it's more like a delicious mass of slightly salty, slightly cheesey, fragrantly fennely deliciousness. On a final note, what I love about this is we are now half a world away from Europe, snuggled up in the midst of a New Zealand winter, but you know what - we can crank up some Italian opera, open up a bottle of grunty red wine, light a candle or two and be transported by our food. Cool. (Little PS - I set this up with two forks romantically thinking it would be good to share, but when Nick got home from a big run and lots of chores he 'went in' to test a mouthful and scoffed the lot...couldn't be happier - success!

3 slices white bread, crusts removed 
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g bucatini or spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g white or regular anchovy fillets, drained and very roughly chopped
2 teaspoon lightly toasted fennel seeds, gently crushed
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley or finely chopped fennel leaf tips
1 cup grated Parmesan

Whiz bread slices in a food processor to form bread crumbs. Heat oil in a frypan and add breadcrumbs, sea salt and pepper. Toss around over a medium heat for a few minutes until golden and crunchy.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil and cook spaghetti according to packet instructions until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking water. (Al dente as you know means 'firm to the bite' and believe me, proper Italian pasta really is a little firm, certainly not squishy...so if you don't normally, maybe try it a little firmer than you are used to. Not solid clearly, but definitely with a little nugget of resistance in the core of the spaghetti.) Heat oil in a large pot and add garlic, anchovies and fennel seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is fragrant but not browned and the anchovies are starting to break up. Add the pasta to the pot with a good grinding of black pepper, the reserved pasta water, half of the Parmesan, and half of the parsley or fennel tips. Serve with  a good grinding of black pepper, the rest of the parsley or fennel tips and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs with Parmesan passed separately around the table. Serves 4-6 (6 for lunch, 4 for dinner with a nice big salad on the side).

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