Bigoli con Salsa Recipe
There are many dishes in Venice that I could have made for our series on ‘the dish’, the quintessential plate of a place. Sarde in soar (a type of marinated ‘sweet and sour’ sardines) and spaghetti con vongole (spaghetti with clams) are just a couple of them. However, many of Venice’s traditional dishes are either specifically tied to local varieties of seafood that aren’t available anywhere else or won’t please a lot of palates, such as the city’s famous liver dish.
Instead, I’ve opted for something more practical that is deceptively simple and decidedly delicious: bigoli con salsa recipe, a course wholewheat pasta with an onion and anchovy sauce, sprinkled liberally with parsley. It could not be simpler, but as Francesco, the owner of Antiche Carampane tells us when we seek his advice on what I should make: “it’s the salty seafood taste of the anchovies combined with the sweetness of the onions that make it so special.”
It’s most certainly a local specialty too. There isn’t a chef worth their salt in Venice who can’t make this dish. And while you won’t see it on every menu, you can just do what we did at a couple of favorite restaurants, such as Vini da Gigio, and just ask for it and they’ll make it.
For this dish, the pasta is all important. Originally made with duck eggs and buckwheat flour (these days, wholewheat flour and chicken eggs), the dough is pressed through a mechanism not dissimilar to a meat grinder, instead of being put through a pasta machine. In fact a meat grinder is what Mario Batali ingeniously recommends in a Babbo recipe for Bigoli. You can, however, buy dried bigoli, such as the one in my photo above from nearby Bassano, in specialist Italian food shops worldwide.
Why is the pasta so important? Every pasta in Italy is shaped to serve a purpose, and in this case the pasta has a spaghetti-like length and shape, but with a coarse rather than smooth exterior. The texture of this pasta allows more sauce to ‘stick’ to the pasta, so the pasta is generally used when you have a pasta sauce with a gravy-like consistency. You’ll find it used throughout the Veneto, with a duck or asino (donkey) sauce, particularly in Verona.
I know I’ve said this already, but this dish is amazingly simple, which is another reason I’ve chosen it: it’s a fantastic dish to make for those nights at home in the palazzo in Venice, when, exhausted after a day traipsing around the Accademia, you just want to stay in and cook something simple to sip with your Soave.
After eating a sublime plate of the stuff at Vini da Gigio, we asked the waitress exactly what they put in their sauce. “Olive oil, anchovies, onion, parsley, and seasoning,” she said. Brilliant. And for those who turn up their nose at anchovies, taste the dish first, you’ll be surprised at how subtle the anchovy taste is.
- 250g Bigoli pasta
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 anchovy fillets
- 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
- 1 good bunch of Italian parsley, chopped finely
- Salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta. Add a tablespoon of good salt.
- In a large sauté pan over low-medium heat, add the olive oil, the anchovies and the onion.
- Stir the mix, helping to break down the anchovies. This should take around 10 minutes.
- When you have a thick gravy, the sauce is ready, so put your pasta on.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the sauce. Mix through most of the parsley and serve. Add a little parsley on top to make it pretty. Season and add more olive oil if you wish and enjoy with a medium to full bodied white wine.