Bigoli in salsa: Venetian anchovy pasta (recipe)

Bigoli in salsa
Bigoli in salsa


Bigoli in salsa is one of the most classic Venetian dishes which is found mostly in the city of Venice itself, but in variations in other parts of the Veneto. It consists of a kind of pasta made with semolina flour and eggs, served in an anchovy and onion sauce. The bigoli themselves are like very thick spaghetti, and similar to Tuscan pici or bringoli except that those are made without eggs. The name is also used for a kind of wholewheat spaghetti typical to the town of Bassano del Grappa in the north of the Veneto and so these are also sometimes used. Normal spaghetti would work well if it’s all that you can find.

This is quite a simple dish and was originally eaten during lent. Later it became the dish to eat the night before a feast: substantial enough to fill you but light enough to allow the feast to come to sit more easily on your stomach.


And a gratuitous shot of a canal.
And a gratuitous shot of a canal.


You should cook the onion gently so that it doesn’t colour but long enough for it to become mushy. The anchovy will then melt into the onions and take on a beautiful sweet and sour quality from the wine. This recipe uses Soave, a dry white wine from the area around Verona, but any dry white wine will do. A pinot grigio del Veneto would work perfectly.

Don’t be tempted to put grated parmesan cheese on this dish unless you are well out of range of a Venetian. Italian cuisine precludes its use on fish-based pasta dishes. Don’t salt the cooking water too much because the sauce is quite salty in itself. You could add tuna fish and capers without making the dish inauthentic.


Bigoli in salsa
Bigoli in salsa


I personally love this sauce as it has an unexpected tanginess which seems to go beyond the sum of its ingredients. And I’m not just saying that because I’m venetian. This is one to try.



Bigoli in salsa

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour ten minutes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
50ml water
25 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/2 glass Soave wine
400g bigoli or wholewheat spaghetti
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
  2. Add the onions and soften on a gently heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the water and continue to cook gently for about 45 minutes until the onions are very soft indeed.
  4. Add the anchovies mix well.
  5. Add the wine, bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in gently salted water. When it’s ready, reserve a little of the cooking water and then drain.
  7. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce along with the reserved cooking water.
  8. Mix the pasta into the sauce and then serve with plenty of ground black pepper.


2 thoughts on “Bigoli in salsa: Venetian anchovy pasta (recipe)

  1. I tried this when I was in Venice a few years ago. So delicious and hearty. I think I’ll have to give this one a whirl in my own kitchen…….looks marvelous.

    1. It’s one of the best pasta sauces I’ve ever tasted. It’s the tanginess caused by the salty anchovies and the white wine that I can’t get enough of!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.