Midnight Pasta With Garlic, Anchovy, Capers and Red Pepper Recipe (2024)

By David Tanis

Midnight Pasta With Garlic, Anchovy, Capers and Red Pepper Recipe (1)

Total Time
15 to 20 minutes
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There’s something about pasta, cooked properly, that trumps all the other possibilities. And the smell of pasta boiling is a heady cheap thrill. With a few basic staple pantry items, a true feast can be ready in minutes. Good spaghetti, good olive oil, garlic and a little red pepper are all you need, plus some anchovy and capers if you have them.

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Yield:2 servings.

  • ½pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4anchovy filets, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1tablespoon capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • ½teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 2tablespoons chopped parsley, optional
  • Parmesan for grating, optional

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (2 servings)

628 calories; 23 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 15 grams monounsaturated fat; 3 grams polyunsaturated fat; 87 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams sugars; 18 grams protein; 405 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Midnight Pasta With Garlic, Anchovy, Capers and Red Pepper Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Put the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted rapidly boiling water and cook only until firmly al dente. (Depending on the brand of pasta, this will be 8 to 10 minutes, but check frequently to see. )

  2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, without letting it brown. Stir in the anchovies, capers and red pepper and cook for a half-minute more, then turn off the heat.

  3. Step


    Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in the garlic mixture, add the parsley, if using, and toss well to coat. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.



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Cooking Notes


I've always found it best to finish cooking pasta in its sauce. For this, I'd remove the pasta from the pot after boiling for 6 minutes reserving some of the pasta water, add the pasta to the skillet with about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, bring to a simmer for about 2 minutes or until the pasta water evaporates.


This is a favorite quick pasta dish. You can safely cut out 1 TBSP of oil. I use the small tins of anchovies, and use the whole tin, draining off most of the oil first. Stronger flavour, of course, than what the recipe calls for. The parsley adds a nice touch. Add extra chilli flakes if you like it spicier. I like to start the capers with the garlic, to give them a bit of crunch.


I took others' suggestions and modified this slightly. Doubled anchovies, garlic and capers, sliced garlic instead of chopping, took out pasta 1 minute before it got to al dente, and threw it into the skillet with the other ingredients and some pasta water to cook further. A squeeze of lemon with the parsley added a nice touch. Next time, I'll top with grated parm.

Sarah Evans

Boiling the pasta with a little bit of kombu (a type of seaweed used in japanese cooking. It is basically a way of adding a little natural MSG) really added something for me-the recipe is basically an umami bomb, and the subtle kombu flavor bridges the gap between the sweeter pasta and everything else. I make this recipe often, and I love it dearly.


This easy recipe can be made even easier! First - no need to chop or rinse the anchovies, they break apart easily in the hot oil. Garlic - just smash and peel, no need to chop. I don't think rinsing or chopping the capers is necessary, and anyway I like the taste of caper juice! So you can do this whole recipe without any chopping or rinsing in my opinion!


I use a tube of anchovy paste, about half an inch or so, melted into the garlic oil. I love this dish for a very quick "fancy" dinner. I love it, my partner hates it, therefore I get to eat a huge bowl of it on rainy days when she's working and I'm home.

Johan N

If you're eating a proper Italian meal of antipasti, pasta, then main course with contorni an d followed by some dolci or cheese, a meagre 40-50 grams of pasta is fine. But if you've missed meals & this is a late-night well-overdue fix-me-up, as is intended, serve a decent bowl full. Add some grated lemon peel if you feel guilty ;-)

Karen G

Oh, my. this has become my it's 11 pm; 'I've been working at the hospital so long than I am starving but bone tired, and I'm not sure what would cut through the memory of blood and disinfectant' standard. A squueze of lemon brightens it considerably. Be sure to reserve some pasta cooking water to loosen it up if needed. I'll be sure never to be out of the ingredients. For my purposes, pairing with a cold astringent vinho verde is perfect.


Vegetarian version: substitute salty, wrinkled Moroccan black olives for the anchovies. Take out the pits and chop them coursely. About half a cup. This version is also good with 1/2 c frozen peas and a few chunks of tomato thrown in at the last minute--not cooked too much.


I don't make pasta that often, but if I do, it's this one. So simple you might not need a recipe, but this combination is perfect if you're a lover of garlic and anchovies. So much flavor from just a few ingredients. Last time I made it I doubled everything but the pasta and got raves.


Make this often. I usually toss the pasta and oil mixture with some fresh spinach before serving. Using a wok makes this last step easy.


When I make spaghetti with anchovies and capers, I like to blanch some broccoli rappini in the boiling water before the pasta goes in . I then scoop it out and cook the pasta in the same water. Serve the rappini on top of the finished pasta dish. It adds a healthy green with a tiny bit of bitterness that offsets the saltiness.


Gluten free! I made this recipe with spaghetti squash. I microwaved the squash (after cutting it in half long-ways and putting it on a plate with some water to help cook it), then scraped the squash with a fork into strands which I added to the skillet that had the garlic, anchovies, etc. I used a whole tin of anchovies and half a jar of capers, and probably more olive oil than the recipe called for. Easy and tasty!


This was tasty. I added some lemon juice right before serving and it added some brightness to the dish. I think I'll try adding either tuna or sardines to it next time. Great, easy go-to dish.


I found it much livelier if you don't rinse the anchovies and use some of the oil from the can.


I tried this but I had leftover cooked pearl couscous in the fridge and used that. It was great! At first it seemed really "fishy"...but I'm reading many reviews on anchovies and sampling brands. It may have been the brand I used. It was really filling. There is another NYT Cooking recipe where there are eggs in the sauce reminding me of a carbonara - I'm looking forward to trying that one too.

Diane K. Martin

I forgot to reserve pasta water, and it was a bit dry, but quick and tasty. I chopped up green olives as well as capers and added lemon zest and lemon juice. I like the idea of adding toasted pine nuts or walnuts—maybe next time.


The basic ingredient combination is good, but needs more acid, as others have mentioned. Add lemon juice, zest and/or a little white wine to make this dish really shine. Seriously, more of everything would be a bonus, depending on how much flavor you like after hours.


Delicious with seafood, add some crab or shrimp and a hefty shot of fresh lemon juice.

Jason G

Instead of Olive oil, take four steps of bacon and cut them up in 1/4 inch slices then fry them up and use the oil to fry the garlic and anchovies. Add the bacon and you have perfection!


This is my favorite go-to quick meal on a weeknight. The only change I make is to add some lemon juice before serving. It makes a big difference.


I also prefer to add the pasta to the sauce, with a bit of cooking water.


Very easy and my kids loved it. I was less impressed but will definitely make again.


Very tasty. I made this for Halloween using squid ink pasta. I was out of garlic so I used 1/3 cup finely diced red onion. I topped with some red veined sorrel, this citric element cut through the salty richness of the dish nicely!


I made this last night, and am now sitting at my desk, unable to focus on work because I'm just thinking about how good this pasta was, and how I want to make it again. Grain of salt -- I hate my job at it doesn't take much for me to not focus on work and think about something else. But this pasta is what I'm thinking about nonetheless!


I made this last night, and am now sitting at my desk, unable to focus on work because I'm just thinking about how good this pasta was, and how I want to make it again. Grain of salt -- I hate my job and it doesn't take much for me to not focus on work anyways. But this pasta is what I'm thinking about nonetheless!

substitute option

I add shallot in with the garlic stage. Also steamed a spaghetti squash instead of having this with pasta. I don’t think I can eat spaghetti squash any other way now! It infused so much flavor into the squash

Amy S

Made without anchovies; added spinach and chickpeas. Tasty


Vegetarian recipe add Kalamata olives instead of anchovies. You can throw in a few grape tomatoes, too.


Delicious! I followed suit and doubled the sauce: perfection. Great for those long days where I’m exhausted, but still want a satisfying meal.

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Midnight Pasta With Garlic, Anchovy, Capers and Red Pepper Recipe (2024)


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