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Pasta Milanese

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In the years since Hurricane Katrina, some parts of New Orleans life have returned. Homes have been rebuilt. Favorite haunts have reopened. The Mardi Gras parties and parades should be as raucous as ever.
But as any survivor will tell you, the devastating losses will be felt forever. Being able to serve their friends and families familiar dishes -- especially if prepared according to a recipe once believed to have been lost -- has proved a tremendous comfort.
This dish, Pasta Milanese, is a Lenten specialty often served on March 19 when  New Orleanians of Sicilian descent observe St. Joseph’s Day, a tribute to the patron saint who they believed saved their ancestors from famine.

Capers, olives and anchovies give this quick sauce a robust flavor (and plenty of sodium, so season gently). Use the rest of the fennel bulb to create a beautiful salad of thinly sliced raw fennel, orange segments and avocado slices.
-- Susan Puckett, for the Journal Constitution

Hands on time: 20 minutes  Total time: 35 minutes  Serves: 4


    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 celery rib, chopped
    4 garlic cloves, peeled
    1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
    1/2 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb (about 1/4 bulb)
    1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon granulated sugar
    6 anchovy fillets, chopped
    1/4 cup pitted Niçoise olives or pitted chopped kalamata olives
    2 tablespoons drained capers
    2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 pound spaghetti
    1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs and/or grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil. Sauté onion, celery and whole garlic cloves until garlic starts to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fennel, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and sugar. Simmer until the fennel is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the anchovies, olives and capers and simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and place in a large pasta bowl. Toss with the sauce and top with bread crumbs and/or grated cheese.


Per serving: 610 calories (percent of calories from fat, 16), 20 grams protein, 109 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 900 milligrams sodium.

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