Anchovy Pasta Sauce with Pesto and Onion

Plate of anchovy pasta with pesto, with parsley garnish and fork

This anchovy pasta sauce is both easy and indulgent. Perfect comfort food, or make to impress. And it’s the perfect way to use up that odd tin of anchovies at the back of the cupboard!

Anchovy Pasta with Pesto and Onion

I found a recipe for spaghetti in anchovy sauce, or Bigoli in Salsa, when I was looking for something to do with anchovies that didn’t involve pizza.I can’t remember which recipe I used –  there are lots out there if you stick it in google –  but I have since devised my own  version of this Jewish Venetian dish. I don’t know if substituting the parsley of the original for pesto is really in the spirit of the original, but the result is a really simply and yummy anchovy pasta dish.

Whilst I didn’t discover this at the time, the Venetian origins of this dish take me back to the simple fish and seafood dishes we enjoyed on honeymoon in Venice. The cuttlefish in ink sauce was truly unexpected. We think of pasta as being a big heavy meal, but a moderate portion of spaghetti just lightly coated in a simple sauce is the epitome of Italian cooking, and nothing like some of our British or American pasta creations.


Overhead shot of plated anchovy pasta dish, with parsley garnish

Making Anchovy Pasta

The original recipe uses a pasta called bigoli – i’ve never seen this, so I’ve used spaghetti, or on this occasion, Linguine.  I guess any long thin pasta would work.  You should start the sauce before you put the pasta on so the flavours have plenty of time to meld together. This anchovy pasta sauce is one of those recipes where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

I like to serve it with garlic bread or a salad to pad it out a bit, but this anchovy pasta makes a scrummy simple meal on its own.  It’s easy to multiply up for more people.

This anchovy pasta really makes the most of the intense flavour of anchovies, enriching it with the onions and pesto for a full flavour that will appeal to anchovy aficionados and sceptics alike.

Originally published on 31 May 2010

5 from 8 votes
Overhead shot of plated anchovy pasta dish, with parsley garnish
Anchovy Pasta with Pesto and Onions
Prep Time
3 mins
Cook Time
27 mins
Total Time
30 mins

A decadent pasta that's quick enough for weeknight meals. A great way to use up those cans of anchovies lurking at the back of the cupboard!

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: British/Italian
Servings: 2
Calories: 726.5 kcal
Author: Lizzie
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 White/Brown Onions
  • 2 Small Cans of Anchovies
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3-4 tbsp green pesto
  • 5 oz spaghetti or other long pasta 141g, or your usual portion size
  1. Firstly, chop the onions fairly small. Open and drain the cans of anchovies.
  2. Next, heat the oil in a frying pan and put in one piece of onion. When this starts to sizzle, add all the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until it is starting to go soft and translucent.
  3. Now you can add the fish, breaking it up with your wooden spoon, and the pesto. Give it a good stir, and add some water so it doesn't stick.
  4. Now you can put your pasta on to cook. You'll need to stir the sauce occasionally, and add more water when it gets dry. Then when the pasta is cooked, drain it and mix it with the sauce.



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