Pasta with cabbage and anchovy-spiked bread crumbs

Cabbage is one of those vegetables that you don’t quite know what to do with (unless you make a lot of slaw). You buy it with some vague intent only to have it sit forlornly in the fridge, occupying valuable real estate. And for a long time, too, as it keeps well. But you don’t have to restrict yourself to slaw or soup. Cabbage with green peas or lentils are common dishes in India. Cabbage also makes appearances in yakisoba and okonomiyaki, Japanese stir-fried noodles and pancake, respectively. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, shredded cabbage can turn chickpea batter into a tasty and filling savory pancake. I’ll be visiting some of these dishes in future posts. Today, though, we’ll go to Italy and one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Now, when I first came across this recipe in a Melissa Clarke column, I thought, “hmm, pasta and cabbage?. That’s unusual”. What makes this combination work is that now not-so-secret ingredient: anchovies, specifically, anchovy-spiked bread crumbs. And its fast and easy to make. Even if you make your own bread crumbs, and you really should (toast, cool, blitz in the food processor), it takes no longer to make this dish than it does to cook the pasta. Oh, and the bread crumbs are tasty all by themselves or sprinkled over roasted veggies (I highly recommend cauliflower).

Pasta with cabbage and anchovy-spiked bread crumbs
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • ½ head cabbage, shredded
  • ¼ cup panko or regular bread crumbs, preferably homemade
  • 8 cloves garlic, 3 minced and 5 thinly sliced
  • 5 filets anchovies packed in olive oil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp red chile flakes
  • ½ lb dry pasta (penne works best)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Parsley for garnish
  1. Heat 1 tsbp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and fry, using a wooden spoon to break them up and blend into the oil. Then add the minced garlic and cook for a minute. Next, stir in the bread crumbs and mix well, making sure that the anchovies are evenly dispersed through the bread crumbs. Cook for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Season with pepper and move to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain.
  3. In the mean time, heat the remaining oil in the same skillet over high. Stir in the sliced garlic and red chile and cook until the garlic turns a nice golden color. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage starts to brown at the edges. The trick here is to do it over high heat so that the cabbage is not simply sweating. (If the heat is too low or the skillet overcrowded you'll end up with a soggy mess.)
  4. Add the pasta to the cabbage and mix. Stir in the bread crumbs (reserve some for garnish if you like). Taste for salt and pepper.
  5. Garnish with parsley and serve.
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