This $2 Ingredient Is About to Totally Upgrade Your Next Pasta Recipe

updated Jun 15, 2019
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One-Pot Pasta Puttanesca (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

There are a whole lot of simple pantry ingredients that are smart to keep on hand for easy pasta dinners. A couple of jars of good marinara and prepared pesto, plenty of garlic, and a chunk of Parm are just a few of the things I always keep stocked for pasta nights.

I don’t stop there, though. There’s one cheap ingredient that’s equally as valuable to my pasta routine because it instantly upgrades just about any pasta dinner I am whipping up.

Anchovy Paste Is the $2 Ingredient That Will Instantly Improve Your Pasta

Whether you’re making a simple pot of spaghetti in marinara sauce or a fast and fancy lemon caper situation, you pasta deserves a bit of anchovy paste. Yes, I know anchovies are controversial, but even if you’re not an anchovy person, I encourage you to try the paste in pasta.

Anchovy paste won’t add a fishy taste to your beloved bowl — instead it acts as a flavor amplifier, bolstering a flat-tasting tomato sauce or a boring garlic and olive oil sauce. It lends a deep umami richness, along with a nice salty kick, making it an instant upgrade that seriously can’t be beat.

The Trick to Using Anchovy Paste

The secret to using anchovy paste is to tread lightly. It’s best as a background note in your dish rather than the star. Just add a little squeeze, about 1/2 teaspoon or so (which equals one anchovy fillet), to a pot of simmering sauce or, even better, right into the pan when you’re sautéing aromatics like garlic and onions for your pasta.

The benefit of opting for the paste rather then canned or jarred anchovies is the tube lasts for quite a lot time — about a year — so you can add a squeeze here and a squeeze there without fretting it will spoil quickly. (Although I have a feeling once you start seasoning your pasta with anchovy paste, you’ll go through that tube pretty quickly.)

Buy it online : Italian Anchovy Paste, $8 for 2 (1.6-ounce) tubes
(Online shopping is always going to be a few more dollars. Head to your grocery store for the best deal!)

What are your feelings about anchovies? Love them or hate them?