Caramelised fennel, anchovy and chilli spaghetti/linguine


This is an adaptation of a Waitrose recipe which appeared in one of its periodic MyWaitrose members’ mailings.  The original recipe called for sardines but because I don’t care for sardines I decided to modify the recipe.  And in doing so I added some onion, a little stock and changed linguine for spaghetti – only because I didn’t have any linguine to hand when I made this dish the other evening.

Like a number of my recipes this one, too, may be tweaked further.  If you don’t care for anchovies you can swap them or simply leave them out particularly if you wish to make it a vegetarian dish.

To say the fennel is caramelised is a little bit of a misnomer insofar that no sugar is used but rather the fennel is cooked over a high heat to brown it a little and give a caramel colour to the vegetable.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course or four people for a first course:

  • 200g/7oz (or more depending on appetites) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • Olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb finely sliced.  Reserve the fronds
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • Half a mug of chicken or vegetable stock*
  • Hot chilli flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon

* I use (among other stock cubes and concentrated stock) Knorr’s Touch of Taste liquid stock in bottles.  I find this ideal if you wish to make just a small amount of stock rather than having to make up 500ml of the stuff when using a stock cube.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Put a large saucepan of water to boil for the pasta, salting the water.  Once the water comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or to taste.
  • Whilst the pasta is cooking heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.  You may use the olive oil from the tinned anchovies if you wish – I did a half-and-half, a bit of the anchovy oil and olive oil.
  • Add the fennel and fry over a high heat for 4-6 minutes stirring often until the fennel turns a caramel colour and has softened.  Remove from the frying pan to a dish and keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat and add the chopped onion to the frying pan and fry the onions a little. (Add a little more olive/anchovy oil if you think the pan might need it).   Add the anchovies to the onions and fry gently breaking up the anchovies with a wooden spoon.  They will start to melt into the onion/oil mix.
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil.  A half-mug of stock isn’t too much but what you are aiming for is the stock to reduce to a nice glossy consistency.  Return the fennel to the frying pan and mix together.
  • Drain the cooked pasta and add to the fennel, onion and anchovy sauce (add a little pasta water if you wish), add the chilli flakes and lemon juice and mix all together allowing the sauce to bubble a little and coat the pasta.
  • Serve topped with the reserved fennel fronds.
Frying the fennel until caramel coloured

Arrabbiata/Amatriciana sauce

Today you are getting a two-for-the-price-of-one deal with a recipe for Arrabbiata sauce and Amatriciana sauce and the reason being is that they are both very similar to each other.  The only difference between the two is that one (Amatriciana) has an additional ingredient, pancetta or bacon.  One sauce is vegetarian, and the other not.

Both sauces are a little fiery.   Arrabbiata, for example, means angry and is traditionally made with garlic, chilli, tomatoes and olive oil and as such is simplicity itself.  Amatriciana is very similar in composition except that pancetta or bacon is used. Amatriciana originated in the town of Amatrice in Lazio and traditionally used guanciale which is cured pork cheek.  As that is hard to come by outside of Italy (I imagine) pancetta or bacon is used as a substitute.

The pasta that is usually employed with Arrabiata is Penne or Penne Rigati but I have also used the larger tubular Rigatoni which works equally well and I have also paired this sauce with spaghetti which is the dish I have illustrated.  The pasta that works well with Amatriciana is bucatini, favoured in Rome so I am told but spaghetti works well too.

What you’ll need for two people for Arrabbiata is:

  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried chillies sliced, seeds included
  • 1 x 400g/14.10oz tin tomatoes

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a good slug of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and chillies.  Cook a little to release the aroma but do not let the garlic brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer then let the sauce cook for around 20-30 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the sauces becomes pulpy.

To make the Amatriciana sauce:

  • The ingredients listed above
  • Bacon cut into strips or pancetta cut into cubes.  Use as much or as little bacon/pancetta as suits your taste.   For two people I would suggest 2 rashers of bacon per person, more if you prefer.  Cut the bacon into thin strips but not too thin.   Add the bacon to the saucepan before adding the garlic and chillies.

The bacon I use is smoked back bacon which may be difficult to find in the US so Canadian bacon will work just as well.

If you are using streaky bacon (which is the standard bacon found in the US)  fry the bacon first (before adding the garlic and chillies) which will allow the bacon fat to render then add the garlic and chillies.  If necessary add a little olive oil – then add the tomatoes and follow the steps set out for Arrabbiata above.

Sugo Amatriciana with spaghetti



Bigoli in (Anchovy) Salsa

First I would like to wish you a happy New Year and apologise for the paucity of recipes since I started last May! To my family and friends who have gently reminded me from time-to-time to get on with posting recipes, thank you for your gentle chiding – here we go!

I have wanted to try this recipe for a while since watching Rick Stein cook it in Venice during his From Venice to Istanbul television series for the BBC.  It has become one of Mr. Stein’s favourite dishes and having cooked it last night, I can see why.  It is incredibly easy to cook and absolutely delicious!

Bigoli is a type of pasta made in Venice.  It is rather like thick spaghetti and quite difficult to get hold of outside of Venice.  I happen to have some Pici Senesi which is a Tuscan pasta almost the same – a speciality of Siena where I bought it last year and which I used last night.  If you haven’t got any bigoli or pici senesi lurking in your larder Mr. Stein suggests using bucatini instead but I am quite confident that good old spaghetti will do the job just as well though the sauce does lend itself very well to a thicker type of pasta.

Pici Senesi from Sienna
What you’ll need for two people as a main course or  four people as a first course is:

  • 200 – 250g (depending on how hungry you are) of either bigoli, pici senesi, bucatini or spaghetti
  • Salt for the pasta water.
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 8 anchovy fillets (tinned).  NB There are usually about 8 fillets in the small oblong tins you buy in the supermarkets.  Just in case, have a spare tin to hand.
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • Black pepper – around 10 twists of the mill.
  • Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley chopped.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Bring a large pan of salted water to boil for the pasta.
  • In a large frying pan heat the olive oil over a medium heat and then add the onion and garlic.  Cook slowly for 10-15 minutes until soft.
  • Add the anchovies giving them a good stir round the pan which will help break them up.  Interestingly anchovies very quickly start to break down once introduced to heat.
  • Add the chicken stock and let the sauce simmer until two-thirds of the liquid has evaporated.  What you want is a nice glossy coating sauce.
  • Taste and season with black pepper then set aside and keep warm whilst the pasta is cooking
  • Cook the pasta you have chosen until al dente or to your liking.  (If you are using bigoli or pici senesi for the first time you may be surprised by the length of time it takes to cook – about 23 or more minutes for the pici senesi for example)
  • Drain the pasta and add to the sauce.  Coat the pasta  with the sauce whilst stirring in three-quarters of the parsley.
  • Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top of each portion when serving.

I did not include salt in the list of ingredients other than for the pasta water because the saltiness of the anchovies and any salt in the chicken stock is sufficient for the dish.  If you think you may need more salt then add it at the black pepper stage but I don’t think that you will.

As you can see I drank the delicious Lugana (Zenato Villa Flora) from Lake Garda – available from Waitrose.

Bon appetite!

Spaghetti Carbonara

Keeping to the theme of easy recipes I thought I would launch my blog with one for Spaghetti Carbonara taught to me by my chum, Tommy, from Zürich.

This recipe is for the classic carbonara which is a light dish and bears no resemblance to what is often found on restaurant menus doused in litres of cream.

The origin of the name of the dish is obscure and debates continue as to whether it was, in fact, invented by charcoalmen (Carbonari) but it seems certain that the dish was created in Rome.  As to its arrival in this world  the recipe appeared in Elizabeth Davis’s Italian Food published in the UK in 1954 but it did not feature in Ada Boni’s classic La Cucina Romana of 1930.

The dish is simplicity itself and requires only the following:

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 rashers of bacon (smoked or unsmoked as preferred) sliced into strips or use cubed pancetta if you like.  If you like a bit more bacon,then add another slice per person – as you like it!
  • a little olive oil
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley chopped as fine as you can get it
  • 30g/1 oz Parmesan cheese grated or Grana Padano (which is less expensive than Parmesan)
  • 170g/6 oz spaghetti (depending on how hungry you may be, add or subtract the amount of spaghetti)
  • black pepper


  • Put a large saucepan of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. (It is important that there is plenty of water to cook your spaghetti).
  • Whilst the pasta water is coming to a boil, in a mixing bowl break the eggs and whisk with a fork.  Mix in the grated cheese, the parsley and a few twists of pepper to taste.  NB I would not recommend that you add salt because the cheese will be seasoning enough.
  • Put a little olive oil into a frying pan and fry the bacon strips until a little crispy.  If you are using pancetta just pop that into the frying pan, without the oil, because it will have plenty of its own fat in which to fry.  Once cooked to your liking, set aside and keep warm.
  • Once the water has come to a boil add the spaghetti and give it a good stir round and allow to cook according to the instructions on the packet/taste.
  • When the spaghetti is cooked drain in a colander and then return it to the saucepan making sure the heat is turned off beneath the saucepan.    Pop the bacon/pancetta into the saucepan followed by the egg mixture.  Stir thoroughly ensuring the spaghetti is coated.  The trick is to have the egg mixture emulsify and hot through but not let it get over-cooked that it turns a little into scrambled eggs!
  • Divide into two bowls and throughly enjoy along with a glass or two of wine.

2016-05-15 19.48.25

Ps This can easily be made for one person simply by using one egg and dividing the ingredients accordingly.