everyday impasto


There are few things I like more than freshly made, thinly cut egg pasta, cooked until al dente and then dressed with anchovies and butter.

The combination of the fresh pasta: light, silky and almost buoyant in your mouth, coated with a rich, salty, nut-brown sauce of melted butter and dissolved anchovies is an extremely delicious one. It’s a dish that manages to be gusty and  – like me after a few drinks – a little bit loud, but at the same time remain soft and rounded and to taste both luxurious and everyday.



Tagliolini with butter and anchovies

serves 2

  • 200 g farina di semola (semolina flour) or plain pasta flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 6 – 8 best anchovy filets under oil
  • 75 – 100 g butter

Make a mound of flour on the work surface and scoop a deep hollow in the center. Break the eggs into the hollow and then using your fingers beak the yolks and start working the egg into the flour. Bring the dough together until you have a smoothly integrated mixture.

Knead the dough, pushing it forward with the heel of your palm. Fold the dough in half, give it a half turn and press it hard against the heel of your palm again. Knead for a full eight minutes by which time the dough should be smooth and soft as putty.

Cut the ball of pasta into 6 pieces (the general rule is the number of pieces should be 3 times the number of eggs. So 2 eggs = 6 pieces). Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Set the pasta machine to the widest setting. Flatten one of the pieces of dough by pummeling it with your hands and then run it through the machine. Fold the pasta as you would an envelope by bringing the two ends over each other, so the piece is a third of its length, and run it through the machine again. Repeat with the other 5 pieces. Close the gap in the rollers down by one notch and run the pasta pieces through one by one. Continue thinning the pieces progressively closing down the notches one by one until the pasta is as thin as you want it.

Attach the cutter to the pasta machine and the run the sheets of pasta through the cutter and lay the Tagliolini on a well floured board until you are ready to cook them.

Bring a large pan of well salted water to a fast boil and add the pasta – it will take just a few minutes so keep tasting.

In a large saute pan, over a low flame melt the butter and the anchovies (drained from their oil), prodding the anchovies gently with the back of a wooden spoon so they dissolve into the butter. The butter should foam very slightly but no more.

Once the pasta is al dente (tender but with bite) drain it and add it to the sauté pan, stir so each strand is coated with anchovy butter and serve immediately.




Filed under anchovies, fresh egg pasta, In praise of, pasta and rice, rachel eats Rome, recipes, supper dishes

39 responses to “everyday impasto

  1. Nice sounding pasta and pasta sauce Rachel. I’m beginning to realise that simplicity is the best when it comes to pasta sauces! Have just got a pasta making attachment for a Kitchenaid food mixer which includes spaghetti and tagliolini attachments. Haven’t got the Kitchenaid yet though! Dah!

    • rachel

      The attachments are the first step – and you aways need a first step. It took me ages to get around to making pasta, I had all sorts of anxieties to get over before I realized it is in fact incredibly easy and so satisfying the practice is a pleasure

  2. Argh! Now I’m hungry again, and I’ve just finished lunch.

  3. I have been seaching and I mean SEARCHING for a frying pan like this – is it an Italian purchase? Any heads up on where I might be able to purchase such a thing??

    • rachel

      It is a french brass pan – a birthday present from my brother an sister – I think it was very expensive but it is extraordinary and the most joyous thing to cook in.

  4. laura

    Oh, Rachel. I REALLY REALLY REALLY can’t wait for your book. For so many reasons. I can’t imagine the stress you’re under right now … it IS DECEMBER … but you keep on inspiring me.
    And if you need a proofreader (I’m a teacher and a mother and have an awful eagle eye), just let me know.
    Thank you. And a BIG hug.

    • rachel

      I will and I will (I need a very eagle eye) thank you. Time is flying and I am not very organized…but slowly slowly and rather absently here I know.
      baci rxxx

  5. simple and superb. Simple demands all the best ingredients..lovely.. c

  6. This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try some!

  7. Sometimes simplicity really is perfection (and almost invariably when it comes to dressing pasta dishes!). Anchovies in oil have been an acquired taste for me but now I love them – such a great pantry staple to have on hand, their tiny size and simple packaging really belies the flavour punch they pack.

    • rachel

      I agree – If the pasta is good, I ma happy to eat it with butter and parmesan or olive oil and salt. Punch is the right word! x

  8. Beautiful images, Rachel. I really really like them – perfect light.

  9. Sooooo impressed at your making pasta. I’ve only done it once, but I found it took longer than you seemed to. Practice makes perfect I guess, because – yes – it is worth it. Occasionally.

    • rachel

      I avoided making pasta for years and then couldn’t believe how easy it was…it does take a bit of getting used to, but after a few attempts and an idea how the dough should feel and transform it is really simple. Good flour is key and I think the 8 minute kneading rule (which some say is too much) works well.

  10. Lovely! I’m only ever made homemade pasta once, and since then my pasta machine has been…erm.. let’s just say I’m sure it has a greater destiny than collecting dust. I think we have very similar tastes – anchovies are always on my yes list, and browned butter? oh man, you’ve hit it the nail on its head. And i like that you say it’s luxurious yet everyday. It’s like using pretty candles on a Monday night and wearing a nice dress to go to the supermarket. thanks for this.

    • rachel

      Mine collected dust for years. At the moment it is out clamped to the table and as a consequence I am using it lots. I am a big fan of candles on Monday, as is my little boy who thinks they are hilarious…

  11. Amy

    Lovely post – loved how you didn’t even try to do over-it. Very much mirrored the way this pasta sounds…

    and that last photo made me happy

  12. Christine

    Oh man, oh man. This sounds so amazing.

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  14. It is a bit OTT of me to say some of your photographs remind me of Rembrandt? Sophie

  15. This is such a simple pasta dish but loaded with so much flavor from the anchovies and butter.

  16. pulling up a chair….

  17. jopo452000@yahoo.fr

    Really looking forward to your book. Read your piece in The Guardian travel section last week. Am now planning next visit to Italy to Abruzzo – your descriptions are just so mouthwatering.


    • rachel

      That is so nice to hear..Abruzzo is quite extraordinary region both in terms of geography and food. We are planning a trip in the spring.

  18. Anchovies are quite addicting and I love the umami-flavor they add to many dishes, but homemade pasta with butter and anchovies I have never had and almost sounds more enticing than its truffle counterpart. Must try this, and wonder why once again you have managed to suggest somethign so simple that I had never thought of. You truly have a way with words, my friend.

    • rachel

      I do too…and you are right to mention truffles as this, although very different) has that same intense rounded flavour. Thank you x

  19. My husband and I made this last night and this definitely upped our already excellent pasta making to phenomenal! We had not previously folded after the first roll. And the simplicity of the butter and anchovies! Amazing! Thank you so much for such a beautiful blog and recipe.

  20. tabledad

    One of my favorite things to do when I need to relax. Great recipe. Thanks!

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