With A Little Help From Your Cheesemonger

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This is Molly. She works at The Cheese Store of Silverlake, one of my favorite places to shop before a dinner party, and recently I decided to go in without an agenda. “Look Molly,” I said, “usually I come in here with a recipe and then just get the stuff I need, but this time I’m putting my fate in your hands!” She gave me a weird look. “What’s the best thing I could possibly make for dinner using the cheeses from your shop?” She thought for a moment and then said: “Ummm…what about spaghetti in a spicy tomato sauce with white anchovies and a raw pecorino?” Umm…what about YES!??!

That’s the thing: when you go into a cheese shop and ask the person working there to tell you what to make for dinner, chances are they have everything you need to make that dinner–and what they have is better than anything you could buy at your local grocery store. So look what Molly gathered up:

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There’s fancy tomato paste, high-quality spaghetti, a bag of dried vegetables with herbs (I actually ended up passing on those, though I could’ve soaked them in hot water and then added them to the sauce), authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, Pepato cheese (raw Pecorino), and Boquerones (aka: white anchovies). I also asked for a cheese to go with the salad I was making that night, a riff on my usual fall salad (this one with persimmons and pears); she suggested Ricotta Salata, so I bought some of that too.

When it came time to cook, I used some Lidia Bastianich techniques, sautéing several sliced garlic cloves, tomato paste, and a teaspoon of hot chile flakes in a big glug of olive oil until the garlic started to brown (I actually added the chile flakes towards the end so they didn’t burn):

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Then I dropped in two cans of tomatoes, added a big pinch of salt, and let that cook down for about 45 minutes at an active simmer. That was one spicy, zesty sauce:

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First up, the salad, with the ricotta salata—a big hit:

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Then, I dropped 1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti in salted boiling water and when it was just al dente, I lifted it into the pan with the sauce and let it finish cooking in there on high heat:

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To finish, I drizzled that with some fresh olive oil, twirled it on to plates, and then topped with the white anchovies and shavings of the Pecorino:

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Good people of the world, this dinner was far out. I mean, I’m a big fan of cooking anchovies into a sauce, but having those white anchovies on there at the end totally changed everything about it–they were so much more intense and exciting. And the pecorino had so much character and took everything in an even more exciting direction. Our dinner guests, including our new friend Melissa (who’s planning our wedding! Shhh….no more about that) fully agreed:

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So thanks, Molly, for such good advice and for such a winning recipe. You cheesemongered your way into our hearts.

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