Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

When planning my Christmas Eve menu last year, I initially did not include a pasta dish. My late Father-in-law always felt that no meal was complete unless it contained pasta, and apparently, he passed on that trait to my husband. After bringing up the topic of adding a pasta dish to our holiday meal repeatedly, I finally broke down and considered it. In our family, it is traditional to have pasta with anchovies or sardines for Christmas Eve, so of course, that is the pasta my husband wanted.

Not being an anchovy fan myself, I wondered if I could find a compromise and prepare some type of pasta that anchovy lovers and those of us not so fond of anchovies would all enjoy. I do use anchovies in my kitchen quite often, but usually, I use them in recipes where they meld in with the other ingredients and add an umami flavor, not a fishy one. Many other members of my family enjoy whole anchovies on their pizza or even Caesar salads, but I just find the taste of whole anchovies too fishy, and I do not care for the texture either.

I searched and searched, and came across this recipe online which included anchovies, but in a tomato sauce which sounded interesting. It also included raisins, Kalamata olives, and pine nuts which is typical of Sicilian cuisine. I had to make this pasta to taste it first, before adding it to my menu, and I have to admit it was delicious and did not have a strong anchovy flavor. If I had to describe this pasta to anyone, I’d say it was similar to Pasta Puttanesca.

Canned anchovies are used which break down during cooking melting into the sauce. If you do not like anchovies, don’t worry! The anchovies completely disintegrate and the sauce does not taste at all fishy. The pairing of sweet golden raisins and tangy black olives is unique and delicious.

I was thrilled that I found a recipe everyone in the family could enjoy, and I happily added it to my Christmas Eve menu. This pasta was a hit with everyone, and my husband happily ate leftovers for a couple of days later. This pasta dish will definitely be a regular on our pasta rotation, and best of all, apart from fresh parsley, the ingredients are all pantry ingredients you can keep available to make this quick and easy pasta dish anytime you are craving it!

Be careful adding salt to this pasta as the anchovies and olives already are salty. Cheese is generally never added to any pasta dish that includes seafood, but if you must have cheese on your pasta, I’d suggest a light sprinkling of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele Revised 2022

Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

A unique combination of sweet and salty ingredients makes this Sicilian pasta delicious.


  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Can Anchovies, Chopped (Reserve Oil)
  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 (14 Ounce) Can Pureed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Cup Lightly Toasted Pine Nuts
  • 1 Cup Golden Raisins
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
  • 1 Cup Coarsely Chopped Pitted Kalamata Olives
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1 Pound Long Pasta Such As Spaghetti or Cappellini


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and then add the reserved anchovy oil.
  2. Add the anchovies and stir vigorously to break down the anchovies, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.
  4. Dump the tomatoes and tomato puree into the pot, and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat, and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the pine nuts, raisins, parsley, and olives and cook for another 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  7. Season generously with black pepper, the red chili flakes, and a pinch of salt if needed.
  8. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  9. Cook the pasta until it is just "al dente".
  10. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  11. Add 1/3 of the sauce to the pot with the cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  12. Serve the pasta either in a large, shallow serving bowl, or individual bowls with additional sauce on top.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 421Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 472mgCarbohydrates: 56gFiber: 4gSugar: 17gProtein: 11g

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