Pasta with broccoli, anchovies & garlic

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broccoli pasta with anchovies, garlic & chilli

This simple pasta of broccoli, anchovies & garlic is the perfect weeknight supper and is way more delicious than it sounds. 

One of the highlights of this strange and wonderful virtual place called Twitter is the interesting and inspirational people I have met. Some of these people I have not yet met in the physical sense, and many I can’t wait to.

There are a lot of foodies on my list and one of them that I have enjoyed over the years, been lucky enough to sit at a dinner table with, and someone who is very open to sharing is @bigbigjoe1.

He comes from a family of passionate food journalists, is a self-taught home cook with a massive cookbook collection, and is not only well-read but used to write a monthly column for the Rapport. This was a part-time thing for him because he had another full and all-encompassing professional career.

He talks a bit about his earlier food inspiration:

My grandfather was the first man I ever saw being active in the kitchen with a passionate gleam in his eye; this was partly due to the fact that he outlived my grandma by many years. When she died he could hardly boil a kettle without burning the water; yet within a year his adventures in the kitchen became legendary: tomato bredie, smoorsnoek, a roast leg of pork with all the trimmings for Sunday lunch… He had a vegetable garden at the back of his house that kept the whole family in supply of whatever was seasonal, and fresh. In summer we’d stroll through- he carried a small pot of salt in his pocket with a Joseph Rogers pocketknife, and we’d stop to pick the ripest of ripe tomatoes and eat them on the spot. From him I learnt to eat seasonally, and that a man’s place is as much inside the kitchen as outside of it. I learnt that happiness with one’s life partner can be infinitely shorter than what you’d wish it to be, and that the joys of the family is most intense when shared around the kitchen table.  Even today, I long for the taste of those perfect tomatoes.

So there I was merrily tweeting about my beautiful broccoli (as you do) and looking for inspiration to make something fabulous with it and @bigbigjoe1 suggested I make this pasta dish.

Hitting some of my favourite flavour nerves head-on, it is ridiculously easy and delicious.

This is what he says about the dish:

As for the pasta recipe with the broccoli, anchovies, garlic and chillies I sent you: it was hastily scribbled down from a television show some years ago; I think it was Gennaro Contaldo (Jamie Oliver’s mentor) who cooked it- it may even be based on one of his recipes. I fiddle with it according to taste: using more oil or less, sometimes a bit of butter as well (though never when I’m using the season first turbid-green pressing!) The trick is to barely melt the anchovies in the oil, then carefully add the chopped garlic and the chillies for flavour. Your smoked chillies add a much-improved dimension to the dish, I must say. And pasta: always the best-dried pasta available- De Cecco fusilli is my first choice. If using sprouting broccoli I cut the stalks off and add them to the boiling water when adding the pasta so that they are nice & soft;  I keep the florets back a little longer. A sprinkling of grated parmesan is a must right at the end; although many traditional Italians do not mix parmesan with an anchovy-based sauce. Locally I’ve found some ricotta salata from Puglia cheeses; an aged, pressed and heavily salted cheese which also makes for an interesting twist.’

Do you see what I mean about how he writes?

Recipe (which you can adapt as per @bigbigjoe1’s advice above)

  • 1 small head of broccoli – florets cut off and stems sliced if young and tender
  • 6 – 8 anchovies
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • pinch of dried chilli flakes (I used my oak smoked chilli flakes) – or a bit more if you like a kick
  • pasta for 2 people – about 150 – 200 grams (I used De Cecco Mafaldine no2 because I just loved the look of these wavy-edged ribbons)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese to server

Read the little story above on how to make it and how to use the stems if they are young enough, but to be a bit more precise:

Cook the pasta the usual way and while this is all going on, blanch the broccoli florets for about 5 minutes until they are just cooked but still firm. Heat the olive oil in the pan, add the anchovies and allow them to partially dissolve and soften in the oil. The oil is now quite warm. Then add the crushed garlic and chilli and toss it around for a few seconds taking it off the heat while you do this. You don’t want this to brown because it will go bitter. Add the steamed broccoli and toss this in the flavoured oil until it is well coated. The florets sort of suck up all the liquid.

Stir this through your pasta and grate over generous amounts of Parmesan cheese.

These images don’t quite show how succulent and tasty this meal was, I literally had the aromatic sauce dripping down my chin.

PS: I was playing around with the styling of this shot and presented it in 2 ways. I prefer the version at the top.

PPS: I came across ‘the 10 things you need to stop tweeting about’ on the Oatmeal. Hilarious!

broccoli pasta with anchovies, garlic & chilli


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  1. This is one of my favourites! And BBJ is an amazing person 🙂

  2. Which I was more Twitterable…….. You do have a positive vibe around you on Twitter and I love that. Great photo as always Sam!

  3. Tandy, isn’t he just the best!

  4. Thanks Nina, I have certainly spent a great deal of time there. x

  5. Hey Sam, as for me, I am only entering the world of social media, although my hubby is an expert of trade. I am sure I will get into the groove and hopefully end up with thousands of tweets and followers!! I so enjoy to do what I do. I have found a little piece of my heart grow fonder and fonder of you and drizzle and dip. I love your photographs and easy simple recipes. Thank you for being a great inspiration to me, hopefully someday, I would get to sit around a dinner table with you too, eating until our tummies want to explode and having lots and lots of wine…

  6. Hi Anina, thank you for the very kind words and its lovely to connect with you over the interwebz. I look forward to meeting you in Joburg.
    S x

  7. Delicious recipe, Sam! Where did you find the cute-looking pasta?

  8. Thanks Zirkie, it really is so much more delicious than it looks. I love that the garlic is hardly cooked and is very pungent, the anchovies give it huge flavour and the chilli some heat. x

  9. Sam, just have to tell you that Rowan and I are completely addicted to this pasta. Have made it like four times in the last 2 weeks.


  10. Hi Karen, Ja it is a total winner. Hits all the spots. Lots of health and then packed with flavour.

  11. This was absolutely delicious! I have a version from Faith Williger’s Red, White, and Greens cookbook that I’ve been making for years. But this is so much easier and just as good. I have to be gluten free and I found excellent, made in Italy, gluten free, mafalda. Thanks!

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