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Many traditional Italian cooks react in horror when they see anyone grate cheese on top of a pasta dish that contains fish or shellfish. It’s as though you just added a dollop of chocolate mousse on top of liver-and-onions. But what’s so wrong with fish and cheese; after all, the French do it all the time, so it couldn’t be that bad of a combination. The New York Times Magazine food section posed this long-burning question today.

I remember an Italian cook teaching me how to make tomato sauce for pasta: onion-basil-tomato-cheese OR garlic-parsley-tomato-fish. No mixing was allowed. What about oregano, I asked? Only on pizza was the firm answer.

Let’s break the no-cheese-mold. Last night for dinner I made this pasta dish and asked “cheese?” The answer was a resounding “yes!” When is cheese not a good idea? Okay, not on chocolate mousse. But definitely on seafood pasta.

Pasta with Anchovies

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 pound fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, and dried
  • 8 anchovies
  • Pepper to taste
  • lots and lots of grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and saute the onions until caramelized, about 45 minutes. Add the vinegar. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about a minute. Add the anchovies and mash into the spinach. Boil the noodles until tender (about a minute) and fold into the sauce with about a cup of the pasta water. Add cheese to your heart’s content.