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Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta

Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta is a classic Italian recipe made with canned anchovies, toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, and lemon. Toasted breadcrumbs give this pasta an irresistible crunch and the whole dish is ready in less than 30 minutes!

Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta in a white bowl under a checkered tablecloth.

Quite possibly one of my favorite pasta recipes of all time, you are going to love this this Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta. It is a classic southern Italian recipe that has so much flavor without a lot of effort.

Why This Recipe Works!

This Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta is an umami powerhouse! Full of flavor with the perfect salty bite, you’re going to love this recipe.

If you’ve never cooked with anchovies before, you’re missing out. This tiny tin of fish adds so much flavor without a lot of effort. Here, the anchovies melt into a simple oil/garlic sauce and leave a delicious salty flavor, without the fishy taste you may fear.

The whole recipe gets an extra layer of flavor from the lemon zest and lemon juice, as well as the red chili peppers. And adding toasted breadcrumbs give it a delicious and satisfying crunch.

There are many variations of this recipe, and I have tried them all! I think you will agree that this is truly the best and most authentic version out there.

Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta in a large white bowl.

Ingredients Needed for Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta

This delicious and savory pasta is filled with pantry staples. For this recipe you will need: spaghetti, canned anchovies, garlic, red chili peppers, lemon, parsley, bread, and parmesan cheese.

  • Canned Anchovies: this delicious salty flavor-booster is an absolute for this recipe. I like to use two tins of anchovies packed in oil. However, if you are hesitant, you could always just use a single tin.
  • Stale Breadcrumbs: you really have to make fresh breadcrumbs for this recipe. Those canned crumbs just will not work. I like to use day-old French or Italian bread loaves that you find at the supermarket. Leftover breadcrumbs can be frozen in an airtight container for later use.
  • Parmesan Cheese: the original version of this recipe doesn’t call for any cheese. In fact, it’s a great dairy-free pasta option if you choose to omit it. I decided to add a small amount at the end of the recipe because I do love the salty bite.

Read on to see how simple and delicious this recipe is to make!

How to Make Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta

This recipe for Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta is one of the best out there! Made with homemade breadcrumbs, canned anchovies, garlic, and spaghetti, you’re going to love how simple and flavorful it really is.

To start, you need to make the breadcrumbs. Day-old Italian or French loaf is ideal here. Simply cut the bread into chunks (step 1) and pulse in a food processor until they form a crumb (step 2).

process shots showing how to cube the bread, place in food process, and toast in a skillet.

Next, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the breadcrumbs and stir until they reach a golden brown in color (step 3). Use a large spoon to remove the breadcrumbs from the skillet and set aside.

The next step is to boil the spaghetti and make the sauce. While you are making the sauce, heat a large pot of salted water and boil the spaghetti until it is just al dente, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid for the sauce.

process shots showing the anchovies and garlic cooking, and the spaghetti being added to the sauce to make the recipe.

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add in minced garlic, anchovies, and chili flakes (step 1). Cook until the anchovies dissolve; about a minutes or two.

Next, add in a cup of the pasta water along with the zest and juice of one lemon. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let reduce slightly; about 5 minutes (step 2).

To the pan, add in the cooked spaghetti, parmesan cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs (step 3). Toss the entire mixture together until well combined with the sauce (step 4). Serve warm.

Overhead photo of Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta tossed together in large skillet.

Recipe Tips and FAQs

Follow my tips to be sure you get perfect Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta every time!

  • Never use canned breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are the star of this recipe and should be made from scratch. You can freeze breadcrumbs ahead of time, and then just saute them prior to serving.
  • Make sure you are using a large skillet or dutch oven when you are making the sauce. You will need plenty of room to toss the pasta together.
  • It’s always a good idea to keep an extra cup or two of pasta water in case you need to loosen up the pasta before serving. Be careful not to add too much water so that you make the bread soggy.
  • To make this dish ahead of time, proceed as instructed, but don’t add the breadcrumbs until right before serving.
What noodle is best for anchovy breadcrumb pasta?

A long noodle is definitely best for this recipe. Buccatini or spaghetti are the best options. You can use a thin pasta like angel hair but it has the tendency to clump together.

What ingredients are in anchovy breadcrumb pasta?

The classic recipe for this dish calls for spaghetti, breadcrumbs, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil. However, many variations also include lemon juice and zest, chili flakes, capers, olives, parsley, and parmesan cheese.

Where does anchovy breadcrumb pasta come from?

Anchovy breadcrumb pasta is a southern Italian recipe that is thought to be Sicilian in origin. The toasted breadcrumbs used in this dish were devised as a cheaper alternative to cheese in pasta. There are different variations of the recipe but the common ingredients are anchovies, breadcrumbs, garlic, oil, and pasta.

anchovy breadcrumb pasta on a fork.

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Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or review in the comments section further down the page.

Anchovy Breadcrumb pasta in a white bowl on a checkered cloth.
Print Recipe
5 from 7 votes

Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta

Anchovy Breadcrumb Pasta is a classic Italian recipe made with canned anchovies, toasted breadcrumbs, garlic, and lemon. Toasted breadcrumbs give this pasta an irresistible crunch and the whole dish is ready in less than 30 minutes!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: anchovies, anchovy breadcrumb pasta, spaghetti
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 445kcal
Cost: 7-9


  • large skillet


  • 2 cups cubed stale bread (French or Italian loaf)
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (about two tablespoons)
  • 2 2 ounce cans anchovies in oil
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup grated parmesan


  • Place the bread cubes in a food processor and process until finely ground. In a large skillet, heat ⅓ cup of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add in breadcrumbs and cook until golden in color, about 3 minutes, stirring to make sure they don't burn. Remove breadcrumbs from skillet and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Boil spaghetti until just al dente, according to package instructions. Save a cup of the cooking liquid for the sauce. Drain spaghetti and set aside.
  • While the pasta boils, prepare the sauce. In the large skillet, heat the remaining ⅓ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant and the anchovies dissolve; about 3 minutes. Add in one cup of pasta water, lemon juice and zest, and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly; about 4 minutes.
  • To the saucepan add in the cooked spaghetti, chopped parsley, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs. Toss until well combined. Serve immediately.



Breadcrumbs: Day-old bread loaves are great for making breadcrumbs. Note that store-bought canned breadcrumbs won’t work here. 
Pasta Noodles: I like to use spaghetti for this dish. However, use whatever long noodles you prefer. Thick bucatini are great for soaking up sauce, and thinner noodles like angel hair cook up super fast. 
Anchovies: The anchovies in this recipe cook off to give incredible umami flavor without the fishy taste. If you are hesitant to use both cans of anchovies, just start with one. 
Parmesan: If you are looking to make a dairy-free dinner, skip the parmesan altogether. 
Make-Ahead Option: Once prepared, this dish should be eaten immediately. If you are looking to make ahead, set aside the breadcrumbs and toss with the warm pasta right before serving. 


Calories: 445kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 139mg | Potassium: 202mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 410IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 1mg
anchovy breadcrumb pasta
Recipe Rating


Thursday 15th of September 2022

This is my new favorite pasta dish. The whole family loves it. I cook it just as described and add sliced prosciutto when serving (because the boys in my house require visible meat in a meal 🙄)


Saturday 17th of September 2022

So happy you loved it! Great idea to add prosciutto! :)


Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Some of my husband's family is from Southern Italy and he has talked about pasta with breadcrumbs though didn't mention anchovies, though that sounds so much tastier to me. Love the flavors in this.


Thursday 3rd of February 2022

This is one of my favorite southern Italian recipes. I love it and could eat it several times a week! My family loved it and it is just so simple and flavorful!


Friday 4th of February 2022

Me too!


Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Great flavour and texture! Love anchovies and never thought of using them like this before! Will definitely make again.


Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Omg, this pasta was SO full of flavor and a lot easier to make than I expected! DELISH!!!!


Friday 4th of February 2022

So happy you loved it!