Legend has it that gnjecopašta, which directly translates to "soggy pasta" in Croatian, was born out of necessity when mariners found themselves with a batch of spoiled pasta onboard their vessel. Instead of wasting the precious food, they decided to embrace the soggy texture and transform it into a hearty and savory meal, using readily available ingredients such as anchovies, capers, and olive oil. The dish has since become a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of Croatian sailors, and it continues to be a beloved part of the country's culinary tradition.
Gnjecopašta (Soggy Sailor's Pasta)
Selo Olive Oil
- 400g pasta (preferably spaghetti or linguine)
- 200g anchovies (canned or fresh, cleaned & filleted)
- 100g capers
- 150g chicken liver pate
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)
Boil a large pot of water with salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Set aside. (Note: if using fresh pasta, it will absorb more liquid, making it soggy, which is ideal for this dish)
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook until they start to break down, about 3-5 minutes. If using canned anchovies, rinse and drain them before adding to the skillet.
Add the capers to the skillet and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to rinse and drain capers as well to remove excess salt.
Lower the heat and add the chicken liver pate, stirring until it melts and combines with the anchovies and capers. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and the reserved pasta water to create a sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and gently mix it with the sauce until thoroughly coated. Keep in mind that gnjecopašta is intended to have a soggy texture. As it cooks, the pasta will gain some crispiness; stir it occasionally to ensure an even consistency throughout the dish.
Serve the gnjecopašta in bowls, garnished with fresh parsley if desired. Enjoy this hearty, flavorsome dish with a side of crusty bread and a glass of Croatian white wine.