In Venice, near our accommodation in a narrow corridor linking two small squares we found a restaurant with a short, hand written menu with fairly good English translations. This was our choice for our first Venetian dinner.
Sue chose ‘Bigoli Pasta with an Anchovy and Onion Salsa’!
It was so delicious that I immediately made a note of the dish and started researching it.
Unbeknown to us this was an excellent choice as it is a Venetian signature dish!
Bigoli is a ‘fat spaghetti’, usually made with whole wheat or buckwheat flour and is said to have been invented in the 1600’s.
Now I’m not a keen ‘pasta’ person and find the bigoli pasta too heavy for my palate, so I would rather use a thin tagliatelle or a fine taglerini. Ordinary spaghetti will be perfect too.
As the sauce is rather ugly beige, I used butternut tagliatelle. The flavours worked beautifully and the colour was exquisite. Spinach pasta would work well too.
It was the sauce that was so delicious.
The sauce or salsa is one of the simplest sauces that you will make. Basically white onions are cooked in a little oil until they are soft and then blended with anchovy.
I had jotted down what I thought recipe should be. Now that I’ve researched it I found that I was pretty accurate. As the sweetness of the onions was so dominant my first thought was to roast the whole onions. All the traditional recipes called for sautéed, but not browned onions. Roasting will take a little longer than sautéing them, but I think the flavours are sweeter when the onions are roasted.
I have also taken the liberty to blend half the mixture ‘electronically’ instead of by mixing by hand. I am quite sure that the modern Venetian Nona will find this acceptable. Half of the onions are finely chopped, giving the dish some texture.
In one recipe the dish was finished off by adding a few toasted pine nuts. That will be delicious, but will elevate it from a fairly economical dish.
I used anchovies preserved in oil with salt. The sweetness of the onion works beautifully with the anchovy. If you like you can add a little white wine vinegar or lemon juice to balance it.
Please don’t use the commercial anchovy paste.
Using 3 basic ingredients this can easily become a store cupboard favourite.