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This fun Funky Fettuccine recipe is for the anchovy and fishy flavor lover in all of us! And, bonus if you also want an extremely quick-and-easy weeknight dinner. It is an umami flavor bomb made with briny, salty and umami-rich anchovies, bottarga and colatura di alici tossed with egg yolks for a rich, silky finish and savory breadcrumbs for crunch and texture. And, it can be on your dinner table in 30 minutes or less. Read on for more!
Inspired by my love for anchovies, umami and all things Italian seafood, this simple Funky Fettuccine pasta recipe actually has a distinct complexity of flavor that comes from three, classic ingredients joined together–Anchovies, Bottarga and Colatura di alici. So, I like to refer to this dish as the “ABC Pasta” around family and friends.
I am not going to lie and say that this pasta is for everyone. It is not. If you like briny, savory and salty, you will probably love this recipe. While most of us are quite familiar with anchovies, bottarga and colatura di alici are much lesser known. But, suffice it to say that they each contribute their own unique “funkiness” to this dish that strategically does not result in umami overkill, but rather a balanced and nuanced pasta that is rich in a carbonara-esque way, yet bright and citrusy a la all things scampi.
Colatura is the aged Italian fish sauce that you definitely need in your life (and pantry!). Once you try it, you will understand. And, think of bottarga as a grate-able block of caviar that has a prosciutto and Parmigiano allure. (Check out Ingredients below for additional information.) Both ingredients are briny, funky and delicious.
This recipe is spot on.
And, the best part is that it comes together really quickly–in 30 minutes or less! White wine is used for acidity and bite, lemon zest for citrusy brightness, and egg yolks mixed in at the end for a silky richness. Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs are both folded into the overall pasta dish for texture, crunch and flavor, as well as sprinkled over individual portions. This recipe is truly umamified!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and make it over and over again! Enjoy!
Ingredients–What You Need
Funky Fettuccine is actually a super-simple pasta recipe with most but just a few ingredients being optional. You can actually create a delicious and very “funky” pasta with simply the anchovies, colatura and bottarga along with some olive oil or butter alone. But, the additional ingredients really bring the dish to a next level experience, so I do recommend them all!
To make this easy recipe, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Anchovies: As the most widely-recognized and utilized of the three forms of funky fishiness in this dish, anchovies provide the umami foundation in this recipe. They dissolve into the butter early in the cooking process, contributing a significant, briny- and salti-ness. I tend to use anchovy fillets stored in olive oil for most applications, and I use the oil that the anchovies are stored in here as well. Listen to Wendy Halloway and I chat all about anchovies on her Flavor of Italy podcast.
- Bottarga: Bottarga is the second source of funkiness in this recipe, with a briny and almost caviar-like flavor. It is the roe (egg) sac of either mullet or tuna that has been salted, dried and pressed until hard. It is sold in either whole form, which can be shaved thinly or grated using a microplane zester, or in pre-grated/powder form, which can be used as is. Its texture is like a hard cheese and its umami-rich flavor is similar to prosciutto or Parmigiano cheese. If you like salty, savory, cured seafood, you might enjoy the strong, briny flavor of bottarga.
- Colatura di Alici: Colatura di alici is the third and final source of umami funk in this pasta recipe. This rich, amber liquid is basically an aged Italian fish sauce that is a close relative to the ancient Roman, fermented ingredient, garum. Made by straining anchovies and salt through boxes called terzigni over a three-year period, colatura is very similar in production to Southeast Asian fish sauces, though it has an aging process about three times longer and a distinctly different flavor. Because of the length of time that it takes to make colatura, it’s one of the more expensive ingredients available. But, a little goes a long way! The term colatura di alici translates from Italian to “anchovy drippings,” which is about as straightforward of a product description as you can get.
- Fettuccine Pasta: This long, flat and wide pasta shape is ideal for this recipe. (Plus, it’s just really fun to say “Funky Fettuccine”.) However, this dish will truly work well with any variety of long pasta. Linguine, bucatini and spaghetti are all great options.
- Garlic: Garlic is an important flavor base and builder and works perfectly with the other ingredients in this dish. Use as much or as little as you like!
- White Wine: The wine adds some much-needed acidity to this dish and rounds out its flavors. Only use a light and dry white wine, such as a pinot grigio, and do not substitute red wine in this recipe.
- Egg Yolks: Not just for carbonara! Adding egg yolks as one of the very last steps in this recipe adds an immeasurable richness to the dish. The yolks coat the long strands of pasta and, once combined with the lemon bottarga breadcrumbs, create a delicious texture. If you feel that you can live without the egg, then by all means, leave it out. But, why would you?
- Breadcrumbs: These are combined with lemon zest and briny bottarga to create an umami-rich mixture that is both folded into the pasta while still in the pan and also sprinkled over individual servings, adding both crunchy texture and flavor.
- Lemon Zest: Mixed in with the breadcrumbs, the lemon zest adds a subtle but appropriate brightness to the final dish. Additional lemon zest can be added to individual servings if a bit more citrus is desired.
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step Photos & Instructions, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make this simple Funky Fettuccine:
- Prep and measure all ingredients. Then, make the Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs and set aside.
- PRO-TIP: The Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs can be made 3 to 4 hours in advance and held, uncovered, at room temperature.
- Get the pasta water ready.
- PRO-TIP: Because so many of the ingredients in this dish already contain salt, I suggest omitting the salt from the pasta water. Also, cook the pasta in less water than you would generally use, so that the residual pasta water becomes starchier (and thicker), enhancing the sauce better. Three quarts water is sufficient.
- Next, start making the sauce. Add anchovies, garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper to melted butter in a large skillet. Once the anchovies have mostly dissolved, stir in the parsley.
- Add some dry white wine, simmer until the alcohol taste has cooked off, then stir in some colatura di alici.
- Cook the pasta two minutes less than the package instructions, then transfer it, along with some starchy pasta water, to the skillet and toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the delicious flavors of the sauce.
- Turn off the heat. Finish the recipe by mixing in additional butter, parsley and colatura along with egg yolks. Once the yolks have completely coated the pasta, fold in half the lemon bottarga breadcrumbs, leaving the remainder to be sprinkled over individual servings. That’s it!
- PRO-TIP: Be sure to fold some of the Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs directly into the pasta while still in the pan so that they add a nice crunchy texture throughout the whole dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions for this Funky Fettuccine recipe:
What the heck is umami? Umami is one of the five tastes on human tongues along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It is a savoriness and meatiness that deepens flavors in dishes. I often say that if you think something is “just missing” in a dish, it is usually umami. While umami is present in lots of different foods, ingredients with the highest level of it include anchovies, tomato paste, mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, miso, soy sauce and beef, to name a few. If you’d like to learn more about this interesting flavor sensation, listen to Wendy Halloway and I as we talk all about umami in her Flavor of Italy Podcast.
What else can I do with the extra colatura di alici that I have? Experiment with drizzling a bit of the colatura over grilled or roasted veggies, hard-boiled eggs or pasta salads, in your next homemade Caesar dressing or anywhere that you need a little more umami! Think of it as anchovies in sauce form and add a splash wherever you would use an anchovy filet. You can even try brushing a bit onto a roast chicken toward the end of cooking or adding a drop to your next ragu alla bolognese! Just keep in mind that a little colatura goes a long way.
And how about that bottarga? Try sprinkling some grated bottarga over scrambled eggs. Or, shave it thinly and toss with raw fennel, lemon juice and olive oil for a simple but impressive salad. Like colatura di alici, bottarga is a powerful flavor and a little goes a long way.
Why no salt in the pasta water? Isn’t that standard? Several of the ingredients is this recipe already contain a fair amount of salt. So, I felt the dish did not need any additional added salt, even for cooking the pasta. But, of course, sodium levels are very personal and you should always salt to your personal preference.
Can I use a different type of pasta? Definitely! Most long pastas will work perfectly in this recipe, such as spaghetti, linguine and bucatini.
What should I serve with Funky Fettuccine? I like to serve this dish with a simple green salad with a red wine vinaigrette and not much else. Pair it with a light sorbet, mixed fruit or biscotti for dessert and you are all set!
Possible Recipe Variations for Funky Fettuccine
Here are a few great suggestions for twists and additions to this Funky Fettuccine recipe:
- Keep it Simple! As I mentioned above, so many of the ingredients in this recipe are optional, and you can make a deliciously funky pasta dish with simply the anchovies, bottarga and colatura alone (along with a little olive oil or butter). If you decide to try a simpler and quicker version of this dish, simply cook and dissolve the anchovies in some butter or oil, toss with cooked pasta and then fold in the colatura di alici and bottarga. Voila!
- Add Additional Protein: Add one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and/or 2 cans drained tuna to the cooked pasta for some additional protein and complexity.
- Add Greens: Fold in two large handfuls of baby spinach to the cooked pasta or some leftover sautéed broccoli rabe for additional nutrients and great color.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware Needed
To make this Funky Fettuccine recipe, you will need the following:
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Microplane zester
- Garlic press
- Large pot for cooking pasta
- Colander, large mesh strainer or spider for scooping out or draining pasta
- Wooden or silicon spoons, tongs
- Sauté pan or skillet
- Dutch oven
- Large serving bowl or platter and serving utensils
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this Funky Fettucine recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
For the Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs:
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, anchovy oil or garlic oil
- ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 3 Tbsp grated bottarga
- Zest from 2 lemons
For the Pasta:
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1 (2 ounce) can anchovy fillets + residual oil (10 to 14 fillets)
- 2 heaping Tbsp minced garlic
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
- 3 Tbsp colatura di alici, divided
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 pound fettuccine or other long pasta (See NOTE below.)
- Prep all ingredients according to specifications above.
- Prepare Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs: Heat oil in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs, black pepper and salt and cook until breadcrumbs are toasted, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Fold in bottarga and lemon zest and mix well. Remove from heat and set aside, uncovered, at room temperature.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook the pasta. Use only about 3 quarts water. (See NOTE below.)
- Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, then add the anchovies and its residual oil, garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the anchovies have mostly dissolved, then add half the parsley and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the wine and stir to loosen and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pot. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until the alcohol taste has cooked off. Stir in 2 Tbsp colatura, then set aside on low heat.
- Once the pasta water comes to a boil, add the fettuccine, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions, or about 2 minutes before you think it is al dente. Be sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
- Transfer the cooked pasta and about ¾ cup pasta water to the pan with the sauce and increase the heat to medium. Toss well, allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the delicious flavors of the sauce. Add additional pasta water if more moisture is needed.
- Turn off the heat. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter, ½ cup parsley and 1 Tbsp colatura and stir. Then quickly mix in the egg yolks and continue to toss until all ingredients are well-combined and the pasta has been well-coated with the egg. Fold in half the lemon bottarga breadcrumbs.
- Adjust seasonings with additional salt and black pepper if necessary. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and top each plated serving with additional breadcrumbs. Buon Appetito!
- The Lemon Bottarga Breadcrumbs can be made 3 to 4 hours in advance and held, uncovered, at room temperature.
- Because so many of the ingredients in this dish already contain salt, I actually cooked the pasta in unsalted water. Also, cook the pasta in less water than you would generally use, so that the residual pasta water becomes starchier (and thicker), enhancing the sauce better. Three quarts water is sufficient.
- Fettuccine is the ideal pasta shape for this dish, but it will truly work well with almost any variety of long pasta. Linguine, bucatini and spaghetti are also great options.