Pasta Milanese by Chef John Besh
"This sauce is a classic for New Orleanians of Sicilian descent and those of us who love their food. What it has to do with Milan beats me. The recipe varies from household to household, but I've found that good-quality canned tomatoes can be brought back to life by adding a little extra spice and a pinch or two of sugar." – Chef John Besh
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 10
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 anchovy filets
  • 3 12-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
  • Leaves from 4 large sprigs fresh basil, chopped
  • Leaves from 2 large sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Basic Creole Spices*
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds Basic Homemade Pasta** or dried fettuccine
  • 1 recipe Mudrica***, optional
  1. Heat a large saucepan over moderate heat. Add the olive oil, then the fresh fennel and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, 10 - 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook very briefly, then stir in the anchovies. Add the diced tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, ground fennel, basil, oregano, pepper flakes, Creole Spices, and black pepper to the pan. Simmer the sauce for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender. Drain the pasta. Serve the pasta in a serving dish with the tomato sauce ladled on top. Sprinkle the Mudrica over the sauce, if you like.
*Basic Creole Spices is a recipe that Chef John Besh includes on page 13 of his book. It includes following spices: 1 tablespoon each of sweet paprika, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder / 2 tablespoons of celery salt / 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper / and ½ teaspoon of allspice.

**Basic Homemade Pasta is found of page 16 of his book, but you can also use store-bought pasta.

***Mudrica is traditionally referred to as "St. Joseph's Sawdust" and it is used to top each serving of Pasta Milanese.

Chef John Besh's recipe includes the following: ½ cup white bread crumbs from day-old bread, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons dried currants, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 pinch chopped fresh oregano leaves, 1 pinch of salt.

Put all the ingredients into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times or until the mixture is well combined. Serve over pasta.
Recipe by The Catholic Foodie at