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Reader request: Spaghetti with anchovy sauce February 25, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fish, Wolfe recipe.

A recent email has reminded me to let everyone know: I am more than happy taking requests for specific Wolfe dishes, so if there is something in particular you want to see, please let me know!

This recipe, while appearing in a Nero Wolfe story (Poison a la Carte, part of the Three at Wolfe’s Door trilogy), does not appear in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook. My thought is that this is because the dish was not cooked in Wolfe’s house, and perhaps was not fine enough to be included in the areas on the dishes that others prepare – which lean towards feasts and luxurious dishes, not day to day fare.

In the book, this dish is used in a setup to identify a murderer; the location is a neighbourhood Italian restaurant. In the A&E series, the location is moved to Rusterman’s Restaurant, and the spaghetti is even more important to the plot.

This is a simple recipe, which can literally be pulled together in minutes – but it is very tasty and will be on high rotation in this household. I can definitely see this being a popular dish with Archie if he’s not able to eat at the Brownstone. Since the recipe is not in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I offer up my own humble recipe at the end of the post – but this is a very flexible dish and worthy of a Wolfe-like experimentation session.

These are the basic sauce ingredients: diced garlic, chilis and anchovies. I used about 12 anchovies – they melt away in the sauce and give a great flavour, but don’t taste fishy.

I cooked the garlic and chili in a generous amount of olive oil, until they were softened but not browned.

I then added the anchovies, and stirred them in until they started to melt in the sauce. then added some breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs absorbed the oil and started to go crispy. The sauce was pretty much done.

I’d been boiling the spaghetti while the sauce was cooking, and now I drained it and reserved a bit of the cooking water. I added the pasta to the sauce, and added a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen up the pasta.

To finish the spaghetti, I sprinkled it with chopped parsley and a few drops of lemon juice. I also added freshly grated parmesan cheese (can’t serve this spaghetti without parmesan!) and it was ready to serve.

This pasta is not going to give you lots of sloppy sauce but this does not mean it is short on flavour. The garlic and anchovy flavour came through well, with the breadcrumbs adding some crunch where they’d gone crispy. The pasta and lemon helped to give a freshness to the dish. I just hope that someone (even a police officer) managed to get a few bites of this spaghetti during Wolfe’s murder investigation as it would be a shame to waste this!

Spaghetti with anchovy sauce (good for catching murderers)
(Serves 2)

3-4 cloves garlic, diced
3 chilis, diced
10-15 anchovies, chopped fine
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon
200g dried spaghetti or other pasta

Start by boiling your pasta in lightly salted water. Leave it to cook while you prepare the sauce.

Chop the garlic, chilis and anchovies. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic and chilis and cook until they soften, about 4 minutes.

Add the anchovies and stir, so they break down and mix into the sauce, where they will practically disappear.

Add the breadcrumbs and stir; some of them will start to fry and crisp up. Remove pan from the heat.

By now your pasta should be cooked. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the rest.

Add the pasta to the sauce. Turn to coat the pasta in the sauce. If needed, add a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen the pasta as needed.

To serve, sprinkle on the chopped parsley, a few drops of the lemon juice, and then the parmesan. Serve immediately and hope that there are no murderers around to spoil your dinner.


  • Quantities of garlic, chilis and anchovies are up to you – add more if you like the flavour, less if you don’t. You could also add an onion along with the garlic.
  • You could also sprinkle more of the breadcrumbs on as a garnish if wished.
  • I’m convinced the sauce would make a fabulous addition to salads if you let the breadcrumbs fully absorb all the oil and cook them a bit longer so they all go quite crispy.


1. Kevin Bell - April 19, 2013

This was excellent! We tried it last night ๐Ÿ™‚

2. Al DAmicis - June 21, 2013

Reading stouts books love them–thank you for this site,lot of fun trying some of your Wolfe dishes-thank you-a lot of fun.

3. zucchinibikini - July 5, 2013

I am one of the world’s anchovy despisers so this one’s not for me ๐Ÿ™‚

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