Fresh cavatelli from Borgatti Ravioli on 187th Street are best accompanied by vegetable sauces that Italians call “condimenti”. Taking a cue from the Cilento region of Southern Italy escarole and anchovies are considered a perfect pairing for fall where the mountains meet the sea and the summer warmth fades away slowly.
Here in the Bronx, local vegetables are few and far between in late fall, but escarole or "shcarole" as Italian-Americans often say, can find in farmer's markets or inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market through early December.
For this sauce, escarole wilts to translucency and doesn’t succumb to mushy when draped over plump, chewy handmade cavatelli. The anchovies dissolve completely in the sauce imparting only their umami flavor without any texture or bone. If you think you don't like well-cooked green vegetables, give this recipe a try. It just may change your mind.
Cavatelli with Anchovies and Escarole
Prepare a large pot of boiling salted water to cook. Add 1.5 lbs cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top, about 3-5 minutes.
For the escarole and anchovy condimento or sauce
1 head of escarole, the tough outer leaves removed (if any) and washed. (Don’t worry about drying them.)
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (I recommend Don Luigi DOP from Teitel Brothers)
4 salted anchovy fillets
1 clove of peeled garlic, crushed with the back of the knife
Pinch of red chili flake (optional)
1/2 cup of pasta water (reserved from the cavatelli pot)
Coarsely chop the escarole and set aside
In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over a low flame. Add the chili flakes then add the garlic and press it against the pan’s surface with a wooden spoon to flavor the oil. When the garlic becomes soft and translucent, remove and discard it. Add the anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon until they completely dissolve.
Bring a large point of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the fresh or frozen cavatelli which will bob to the surface when done, about 6 minutes.
Add the chopped escarole to the oil and stir to coat. Cook for approximately 4 minutes over a low flame or just until the escarole becomes translucent. The escarole will let off about 3-4 tablespoons of water which will become part of the sauce.
Drain the cavatelli and quickly add to the sauce pan. Stir all the ingredients together, place the entire mixture into a serving bowl and serve immediately.