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Leftover garlic-infused fondue made quick pasta sauce

I pride myself on my pasta dishes, as well as being a thrifty cook. But I couldn’t have foreseen how a leftover blend of oil and butter, infused with anchovies and garlic, recently would be repurposed. I just knew the pungent, savory fat was too delicious to waste.

Actually leftover bagna cauda, the mixture’s genesis was a special dinner planned with my partner for the purposes of writing about — and photographing — fondue for the Wednesday before New Year’s Eve. The bagna cauda, presented with raw vegetables and mushrooms for dipping, was a foil to our cheese fondue with smoked sausages and apple slices. Find the recipes in my latest food section column.

And as one would expect, two fondues for a party of two is one fondue too much. We made a heroic effort to consume the lion’s share but couldn’t quite polish off the last half cup or so of bagna cauda. I poured it into a Mason jar and stashed it away in the fridge, betting on a future occasion calling for intense flavor.

As I searched the fridge this week for a jar of bacon fat, the bagna cauda came into view. At first, I couldn’t place it, but then it hit me: The flavors were the perfect base for an easy spaghetti alla carbonara I planned for the evening’s dinner.

With the mixture in hand, I could skip chopping up garlic and seasoning with red pepper flakes, which already were incorporated. So was the savor of anchovy fillets that I melted into the bagna cauda, another happy accident, given that I frequently use anchovy paste in my pasta sauces.

I simply melted the mixture in my skillet while the spaghetti was boiling and tossed in some cooked spaghetti squash for a bit more texture and nutrition. My typical topping is toasted pine nuts, but some fried capers would have been delicious, as well.

And for the first time this winter, my kids didn’t complain that the pasta had squash in it but rather gobbled up their dinner. Maybe there’s hope they’d also enjoy bagna cauda the first time around.

Make your own from my Dec. 30 recipe and save the leftovers for a quick pasta dish, or approximate the flavors with this spaghetti. It’s true that a few flavorful pantry staples, such as anchovy fillets and capers, can make an elegant dish out of otherwise plain noodles. That’s why I make a point to keep them on hand for pickup pasta dishes like this one.

Spaghetti With Capers

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 or 3 anchovy fillets

2 garlic cloves, peeled but whole

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

12 ounces spaghetti

Heat the oil in a pan, add the anchovy and garlic, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the anchovies have dissolved and the garlic has turned golden brown. This will take several minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, discard the garlic and add the capers. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain, toss with the sauce and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from "The Silver Spoon.”

Tribune News Service photo