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Recipe: Puttanesca Sauce


By André de Mendonça

If you have been following my recipes in Cathedral Life, you will see that they have all been vegetarian, so this is a departure, though it will barely be classed as a pescatarian as it is mainly about olives and tomatoes. I first had it at a friend’s place in Camberwell but the aroma of this cooking will take you straight to an Italian trattoria .

This is a really simple dish but you may need a couple of tries before getting it right. The anchovies and the chillies are hard to gauge if you are not used to cooking with them and they are what provides the punch in this dish. Best to try with 2 anchovies at first and use Kashmiri chillies if you can get hold of them, which I think provide the best flavour here. I know, I know… what are you going to do with the rest of the anchovies from the jar? Well, if you have any anchovies left over, you can add them on a pizza or mash a couple into some soft butter to eat on toast for breakfast.


Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes


2-3 anchovies

2 cloves of garlic very finely chopped

1 dried red chilli finely chopped with the seeds

150g of pitted black olives, rinsed and drained well

150g of pitted green olives, rinsed and drained well

700g of passata, or 2 tins of plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons of olive oil

A few fresh basil leaves


Gently heat the oil in a heavy based casserole dish, add the chillies and anchovies and mash them all together with a wooden spoon. Then add the garlic and mash again. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the passata or the tinned tomatoes and cook gently for 5 minutes. If using tinned tomatoes blend the mixture now and return to the casserole. Add the olives and cook the sauce to a thickish consistency (back of a spoon test) that will coat the pasta. The sauce will be robust with a heavy punch which is great for fusilli or penne but could easily be used with spaghetti too, or just with a crusty bread. Shred the basil leaves and add just before serving. Mama mía!