Penne with Sun Dried Tomato and Anchovies

September 7, 2009 § 10 Comments

I have a couple of go-to dishes when I’m cooking for myself. Penne pasta with anchovies is one of  my favorites. It’s not that the Mister doesn’t like anchovies or penne pasta but he’s kind of lost his taste for this dish over the years.  That’s fine because this dish is pretty simple and I don’t feel guilty making it when it’s just me. There are two variations that I make. I’m showing the sun dried tomato version since the asparagus at the grocery store wasn’t looking that good. But I’ll also add the asparagus variation at the end of the post.

If you’re an anchovy lover, you’ll love this dish. I shared this recipe years ago with a friend of mine who loves anchovies. Her family loves it and it was a great way to get her kids to eat asparagus. She still makes it to this day and they still call it Carol’s Pasta Dish, hehe.

I know some of you are going “ew, I hate anchovies!” and you’re probably right that you won’t like this dish IF you dislike the smell and distinctive flavor of anchovies. But if you avoid anchovy because it’s too salty, don’t worry, this dish uses the saltiness as an advantage since the anchovy fillets “melt” into the olive oil, infusing it to a salty delight. Once the pasta (and especially with asparagus) has been added, the saltiness is what flavors the whole dish. Besides, it’s a great way to get your omega-3 fatty acid! Did you know that anchovies are in the top 5 fish for omega-3’s? Yup.

This recipe will make 4-6 servings since it uses a whole pound of penne pasta. It can easily be halved to serve 2-3 very hungry adults.

A note about the sun dried tomatoes. I like to use the ones that are oil packed. However, if using non-oil packed (dry), reconstitute the sun dried tomatoes in warm water for a few minutes before using. But try to use the ones packed in oil if you can for this dish.

Here are the sun dried tomato halves before and after cutting into thin strips.

A note about the anchovies. I’ve made this dish using anchovy paste. It works fine but I think the flavor is much better with fillets. I think I used about 2 tablespoon of anchoy paste. Start with 1 1/2 tablespoons and taste it once cooked in the EVOO. It should taste almost alarmingly salty. Remember, you’re going to add 1 lb of cooked pasta to it. And in the end if you feel it needs more salt, add a bit of sea salt.


  • 1 lb of dried penne pasta (I like Barilla)
  • 1 2-oz can of flat anchovies fillet in olive oil
  • 4-5 halves of sun dried tomatoes (oil packed), sliced into thin strips
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a large pot, bring water to a boil for pasta. Do NOT add salt to the boiling water. This is one of those rare occasions where I don’t salt the pasta water because there will be plenty of saltiness from the anchovies.  Cook pasta according to instructions (minus the salt of course). About half way through cooking, prepare the sauce. I usually start when there’s about 5 minutes left on the pasta.

In a large pan that can hold 1 lb of cooked pasta, heat olive oil at low-medium heat. Add anchovies and break up the fillets. The oil should be on a low sizzle and the anchovies should break down fairly quickly. Add about half of the sliced sun dried tomatoes. Cook on low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes. You should see just a little bit of sizzling. This is what it looks like after 3 minutes. Add the remainder of the sun dried tomatoes. I do this so that there’s 2 kind of texture the tomatoes have that I think adds well to the dish.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce pan. Toss well to coat all the penne and cook for 1 more minute. Make sure the sauce is hot when adding the cooked pasta because it will help the pasta absord the sauce better.

If the pasta seems a little dry, add a little more of EVOO (but not too much) and toss. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan on top.

If you’re interested in making the asparagus version, leave out the sun dried tomatoes (or not!), rinse thoroughly a bundle of fresh asparagus and remove the tough end. A quick way to remove the tough end is to grasp each end of the asparagus stalk and then bend it until it snaps. Throw away the bottom end or use it for something else. If the asparagus is thin and very young, you can just trim the bottom off a bit. Cut the asparagus on the bias into 3″ lengths, about the same lengths as the penne pasta.

Toss the asparagus into the boiling water with the pasta during the last 2 minutes of cooking. This will cook the asparagus but still keep a bit of bite to it. Everything else is the same as the directions above. Definitely add grated Parmesan cheese to it if you’re serving with asparagus. However, don’t salt the final dish until you’ve tasted it. The Parmesan cheese will also add some saltiness to the dish.  This dish can be reheated as a leftover but you might need to add a bit of EVOO and retoss.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day. Have a great week!

§ 10 Responses to Penne with Sun Dried Tomato and Anchovies

  • Dennis says:

    Mmmm, anchovies! I don’t remember when I made the switch but I went from *ick to loving them. I want to try this with spaghetti! Thanks for the inspiration.. 🙂

    • CAB says:

      Hi Dennis! I think my turning point was when I found out that traditional Caesar salad was made from anchovies. I think this will work well with spaghetti.

  • Cookie says:

    I can’t say that I’ve cooked much with anchovies but I’ve always heard that they become nutty when you dissolve it them in oil. I’ve have to try that sometime. I LOVE sun-dried tomatoes though!

    • CAB says:

      Hi Cookie and thanks for stopping by! I’m not sure if nuttiness ever came to mind when I ate this dish. It does taste different, tho. This is the only dish other than caesar salad that I’ve worked with them. I think if you wanted to leave out the anchovies, you can get a nice sauce (for lack of a better word) with just the sun dried tomato. Maybe then cut a few cherry tomatoes and toss that in, too.

  • I love that combination of sundried tomatoes and anchovies! 🙂

    • CAB says:

      Hi Judy! I really like the combination too. The saltiness and sea from the anchovies paired well with the slight sweetness and savoriness of the sun dried tomatoes.

  • Mike says:

    this is a great dish, the only thing I’d add is to toss it with some fresh chopped parsley right before serving, but that’s me.

    • CAB says:

      Hi Mike and thanks for stopping by! Some chopped parsley would be great with the dish. It’ll add a bit more color to the dish too.

  • Slegna says:

    Thank you for this yummy recipe!! I just cooked it and ate it, absolutely adored it, well I have to say that I love sundried tomatoes and anchovies so I knew it would be a winner ;o)
    I also added some olives and parsley.

    • CAB says:

      Hi Slegna and thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe. Adding olive and parsley is a great way to add a whole other dimension of taste to this dish. This dish actually does pretty well at room temperature so it’s great for the summer months.

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