Canned Anchovies Are The Answer For Last-Minute Weeknight Carbonara

Pescatarians and fish lovers rejoice — despite what you may be used to eating, you don't need to include red meat to make a delicious carbonara. If you'd rather stay away from pancetta and guanciale, two staples in simple spaghetti carbonara recipes, you can easily replace them with canned anchovies. It's quicker, easier, and typically cheaper to use tinned fish than to buy fresh meat. And if you're short on time, you don't have to fully cook your protein separately, the way you would typically need to fry your pancetta.

Why do anchovies work so well here? Typically, the two aforementioned meats are added to carbonara to balance out the rich creaminess of the dish with a salty bite. Anchovies are typically preserved in salt and come from naturally salty ocean water, which makes them the perfect flavor replacement for sodium-filled meat. Anchovies also contain high concentrations of glutamic and inosinic acid, which activate our savory tastebuds. So not only is this fishy carbonara easy to whip up at the last minute, but you may enjoy it even more than the original.

How to make anchovy carbonara

Making anchovy carbonara may be even easier than a traditional recipe. Since the fish is already cooked in the tin, you don't need to spend time making sure it gets to a safe-to-eat temperature — you'll just want to warm it up with a few added ingredients for flavor. In a pan with oil, heat up the anchovies with garlic, red pepper flakes, and optional herbs like parsley, oregano, or an Italian seasoning blend. For a little brightness, you can include some lemon zest here and to enhance the briny taste, toss in some capers. You can use the liquid from the tin for added ease and flavor or you can drain your fish and add in fresh oil. 

If stirring your anchovies doesn't break them up enough, you can also smush them as they cook with the back of a spoon. Alternatively, you can chop them up before you throw them in the pan. This whole process should take less than five minutes, and you can cook your pasta while you do it. To pull the dish together, you'll then place your cooked noodles in the skillet with the anchovies, after they're heated through. Once everything is combined, you can add in your egg mixture and toss to turn this pasta into a true fish-infused carbonara.