Winter Puttanesca

Puttanesca is a chilli-hot, fresh tomato sauce flecked with capers and black olives, the flavours underpinned with surprising gravitas by crushed anchovy and garlic softened in olive oil, the salad-sauce littered with basil. It’s normally something to make in late summer when tomatoes are at their most flavoursome but winter tomatoes, slow-ripened in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain, give it an extended life. For ease of serving, I tossed it with campanelle, the pretty, frilly, bell-shaped pasta but traditionally it is spaghetti alla Puttanesca. I’ve known for years that people call puttanesca tart’s pasta but learn from Anna del Conte’s Portrait of Pasta, that puttana means prostitute in Italian. In Rome, the Trastevere region (now foodie-fabulous) is their traditional haunt. ‘Its name, no doubt, owes something to the fact that it is a hot sauce, very quickly made’. Instead of the more usual basil, which isn’t great at this time of year, I added mint.

Serves 6

Prep: 20 min

Cook: 15 min

500g campanelle or another short pasta, or spaghetti

knob of butter

8 anchovy fillets

2 garlic cloves

4 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp chilli flakes

12 medium-size winter tomatoes

150g tomato passata

3 tbsp capers

20 pitted black olives (I like Crespo)

100g bunch fresh mint

     Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with 2 tbsp reserved cooking water and the butter. Cover with a tea towel to keep warm. The sauce can be prepared in advance then quickly finished once the pasta is cooked or made while the pasta cooks. Chop the anchovy, finely chop the peeled garlic and crush to a paste with a pinch salt. Heat the oil in a spacious, lidded frying pan over a medium-low heat. Stir in the anchovy, garlic and chilli, stirring and crushing to make a slop. Cover and turn off the heat. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover generously with boiling water. Count to 30, drain, quarter and swipe off the skins while scraping seeds into a sieve placed over a bowl. Crush the seeds to collect the juice. (I like to serve the juice as a shot but also save it for vinaigrette). Roughly dice the tomatoes. Place tomatoes, passata, capers and olives in the pan with the warmed anchovy and pasta. Toss. Pick the leaves off the mint stalks, rinse pat dry, chop and add to the pan. Toss again and serve. This is not an occasion for Parmesan.