Bea has Sicilian roots and that clearly shows in the recipe for Vermicelli alle Alici con pangrattato dorato that she posted recently. Since fresh anchovies are not so easy to find around here and it is a lot of work to clean them, I decided to make a similar dish using mackerel. Many pasta dishes from the south of Italy use breadcrumbs from stale bread that are fried in olive oil. What makes this dish Sicilian is the addition of raisins and pine nuts. The combination of textures and flavors in this dish is sublime. Succulent mackerel, “al dente” spaghetti, crunchy breadcrumbs, velvety onions, and juicy cherry tomatoes. If you want to stay closer to Bea’s original, by all means use fresh anchovies instead of mackerel. Here’s what I did…
For 2 servings
200 grams (.44 lb) spaghetti
about 300 grams (.66 lb) mackerel fillet, without skin
4 heaping tablespoons of breadcrumbs from stale bread
1 onion, thinly sliced
250 grams (.55 lb) cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp raisins, soaked in warm water and then drained
2 Tbsp pine nuts, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. In the meantime, cut away and discard the central part of each mackerel fillet that has bones in it.
Roughly chop the mackerel, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Seasoning the mackerel before cooking it, allows it to absorb some of the salt so it will have more taste.
Put the onion in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Cook this, stirring regularly, until the onions are soft and the pine nuts are golden.
In the meantime in a separate frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the parsley, the other tablespoon of pine nuts, the minced garlic, and the raisins.
Add the breadcrumbs.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are golden. Transfer the breadcrumbs into a bowl and set aside.
Clean the frying pan with some kitchen paper and add a tablespoon of olive oil and the cherry tomatoes.
Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes are blistered all over and getting soft, but not falling apart.
When the water for the pasta boils, add salt and the spaghetti. Cook for the time indicated on the package for al dente.
When the onions are soft and golden, add the mackerel and turn off the heat.
Stir such that the mackerel will cook in the residual heat of the onions, without overcooking.
When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water, and add the spaghetti to the onions and mackerel.
Add about half of the breadcrumbs…
…and toss to mix. Add some of the reserved cooking water if it gets too dry.
Serve on preheated plates, garnished with the tomatoes and the remaining breadcrumbs. Drizzle with some very good extra virgin olive oil, if you like.
This hazelnut and beet cake is very original and very tasty, because the beets combine very well with the toasted hazelnut and give the cake an earthy flavor. The flavors are very well balanced, the cake isn’t too sweat and it is nicely moist.