Spaghetti with chard, chilli and anchovies
- 300g/10½ oz rainbow (or other) chard
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 8 anchovy fillets (from a jar or tin)
- 3 fat garlic cloves, grated
- ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
- 125ml/4fl oz hot water from a just-boiled kettle
- 200g/7oz spaghetti
- 2–3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, plus extra to serve
Put a large saucepan of water on for the pasta and put a kettle on to boil at the same time.
Strip the leaves from the stalks of chard. Roll them up and slice finely, then leave to one side. Cut the stalks into 1–2cm/½–¾in pieces.
Put the olive oil and anchovies into a large pan and warm slowly, stirring until the anchovies seem to melt into the oil. Take off the heat and stir in the garlic and chilli flakes, then put back on the heat, turned up to medium, and add the chopped chard stalks. Turn the stalks around in the oil for a minute or so to soak up the flavour. Pour in the 125ml/4fl oz hot water from the kettle, stir again, and bring to a bubble. Put the lid on the pan and cook at a fast simmer until the stalks are tender; this will take 5–7 minutes. If you’re cooking with larger-stemmed chard, they may need 10 minutes.
When the pasta water has come to the boil, add salt, then drop in your spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions, but start checking a couple of minutes before it says.
Add the shredded chard leaves to the stalks, give a good stir, replace the lid, and leave them to wilt for 2–4 minutes. Once they’re ready, turn the heat off under the pan, keeping the lid on, while you wait for the pasta.
Use a pasta fork or tongs to add the cooked spaghetti to the pan of chard. It doesn’t matter if the pasta is dripping with water, as that starchy liquid will help thicken your sauce. Turn the spaghetti well in the chard and anchovy mixture; you may need to add up to 4 tablespoons of cooking water but go slowly, and stop when the sauce cleaves to the strands of spaghetti.
Grate over about 2 tablespoons’ worth of cheese and stir, then add a generous pour of olive oil and stir again. Taste to see if you want more cheese or oil, then turn into a warmed bowl or bowls, and bring the cheese, a grater and the bottle of olive oil to the table.
Do feel free to use cavolo nero, spinach, broccoli, beet tops or whatever else you may want, in place of the chard if you can’t get any.
To make this vegan:
I can’t quite reproduce the oomph of the anchovies, but black olives, finely chopped, are a good enough substitution so long as you can find those intense semi-dried ones in foil pouches or vacuum packed in jars or good unpitted olives in olive oil; the ones in brine are disappointingly lacking. Or increase the garlic and stir in a dab of Marmite. On top of that (to boost the elusive umami, and to replace the saltiness further provided by the Parmesan), you will need expansive recourse to nutritional yeast flakes and be prepared to salt the water the pasta cooks in with even more abandon than usual.