Well this is it. My final holiday post. I considered holding on to it and waiting until next year to share it so it would be more timely, but the truth is most people aren't going to just start making capellini w/anchovy sauce as a holiday meal. That's not really how tradition works. But considering how easy it is, you really could make it any time. Although we never do.
You may have heard of the Italian-Catholic tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Wikipedia tells me it has been around since medieval times, so this is some serious tradition here. I have no idea how long my family has been doing it the way we currently do it, but it seems to be for as long as the collective memory can remember. Apparently there is some significance to the number seven, since it appears in the Bible a lot, but my family has never (in my memory) really been able to get that many types of fish on the table. So I guess this is sort of the poor man's version of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Anchovy salad, anchovy sauce, fried smelts, and baccala (salted cod fish), and every once and awhile (although not this year) fried calamari. So we basically max out at 4 or 5. This year we served 30 people, and 4 types of fish were about all my Poppop's kitchen could accommodate. We also have salad and chick pea soup, but they have nothing to do with fish.
Why fish? Well, you're not supposed to eat meat on Christmas Eve, just like Catholics used to not eat any meat on Fridays or holy days. (The Jews and the Muslims must laugh at our idea of "fasting.")
Even people who don't like anchovies, will probably like this sauce. Mainly because there aren't that many anchovies in it relative to the amount of sauce it makes. It definitely has a distinct flavor, but if you don't tell people what that flavor is, they will never guess. (We have tested this.) You can just tell them it's your secret ingredient. You'll seem very wise and mysterious. Just make sure you dispose of the anchovy cans. You don't have to serve it over capellini (or angel hair), but I can't really imagine eating it any other way. The sauce is relatively thin, and the capellini is best because it absorbs the sauce, instead of just swimming around in it.
This pasta is the main course for our meal, and most years my mom makes it. This year we started cooking around midnight the night before Christmas Eve. My mom's patience for measuring (which is never high) was pretty low, so I had to watch and guesstimate for some of the measurements. It seems like a lot of water, but I added the water myself so I am not making this up. It does simmer for hours, so it thickens up. If you are worried that you won't have time for it to thicken all the way, add about half the water, let it thicken and then add the other half if you have time.
Serves 30 w/ 4-5 lbs. of capellini, (quantities for 1lb. of capellini below)
10 cloves of garlic, minced (2-3 cloves of garlic, minced)
54 oz. tomato paste (we used 9- 6oz. cans this time, but you could use larger cans)
2 to 4 (2 oz.) cans anchovies packed in olive oil(depending on taste)
1 to 2 cups fresh chopped parsley
-With a mortar and pestle (or a food processor, I suppose), mash the anchovies in their oil.
-Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large sauce pan over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes in the oil.
-Add the tomato paste and the mashed anchovies to the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Don't let the garlic burn.
-Fill every tomato paste can you used with water 3 times, adding the water to the sauce pan (162 oz. or about 20 cups of water). If concerned about thickening time, add about half the water at first. The other half can be added if time permits.
-Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
-Cover the sauce pan with a lid, leaving it slightly off center so some steam can vent. Simmer for 2 to 4 hours. The sauce will be smooth and on the thinner side for a tomato sauce.
-Add salt and pepper as needed before serving.
Ingredients for about 1 lb. cappelini
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-6 oz. cans tomato paste
36 oz. (4.5 cups) water
1/2 to 1 can anchovies (2 oz. can)
1/2 cup parsley