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1½ pounds fresh anchovies
1 pound spaghetti, bucatini, or linguine
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small fresh hot red peppers, such as cayenne or Thai, minced (optional)
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fennel (or chopped flat leaf parsley, if fennel is not in season)
Bring 5 quarts (5 liters) of water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. Add ¼ cup kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes.
While the pasta cooks, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and hot peppers and cook briefly to release the garlic fragrance without browning it. Next add the chopped wild fennel. If substituting the parsley in place of the fennel, add it at the end of cooking the sauce. Turn the heat to high and add the anchovy fillets and cook for about 45 seconds until the anchovies are white. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook, stirring just long enough to soften the tomatoes and draw out some of their juices, about one minute. Stir in the parsley (if not using the wild fennel).
Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and return it to the warm pot. Add the sauce and toss gently, moistening if necessary with some of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.