The fridge is full to bursting right now with various pots of jam, a silly amount of mustards in tubes and jars, two or three cheeses and a bunch of homemade fruit syrups (raspberry! elderflower! apple-currant, too!), but, as I stood in front of it with a gnawingly empty stomach today, there was nothing in it for lunch. We had no bread to make impromptu grilled cheese sandwiches, and no vegetables to do a simple stove-top sauté. The last of the rice was used up last night and I thought if I even so much as looked at another potato I'd hurl it at a wall. (Potato pancakes, potato dumplings, potato cake, I think we need to talk.)
When this happens to you, do you usually throw in the towel and go out for lunch? Or do you scrounge around until you find something suitable to eat, even if that means canned sardines on top of instant polenta with toasted sesame oil for flair? If I had not still been wearing my pyjamas at lunchtime (uh, one of the benefits of working from home, yes), I would have thrown in that towel and made someone else make me lunch. But vanity and laziness made me resourceful. You see, we did have a small jar of anchovies in oil and a can of my very favorite pomodorini di collina and an obliging parsley plant on the balcony.
Suddenly, things were looking up.
I first read about this sauce on Rachel's mouthwatering blog earlier this year. It's Marcella Hazan's recipe and seems to be almost like the devastating Sofia Loren to her more Jayne Mansfield-like tomato-butter-onion cult. You melt a few anchovies in some olive oil, throw in a bit of garlic (I leave mine in chunks big enough to fish out, but you could mince it, too), and then simmer a can of tomatoes in that dark, funky base until the sauce is reduced and thick enough to coat a panful of spaghetti. I find it needs a bit of chopped parsley to make it feel like a proper lunch, but that's about it. You barely need any salt, you certainly don't need any grated cheese on top and the sauce's richness (not fishiness, don't worry) makes for a very satisfying meal.
With a square or two of chocolate for dessert, of course. One needs something special to book-end a scrounge-y meal like this, after all.
So, tell me, readers: what do you eat when there's "nothing" at home to eat?
Tomato and Anchovy Sauce
Serves 2 or 3
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved (or minced)
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 flat anchovy fillets
1 16-ounce can imported Italian cherry or plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Heat the oil in a skillet and gently brown the garlic over low heat. Add the anchovies and, stirring constantly, allow the anchovies to melt into the oil.
2. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a low simmer. Let simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste for seasoning. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook enough spaghetti for two or three people. Drain the spaghetti, toss with the sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.