Turbo-Umami Pasta Sauce

Honk honk, have a swift and punchy introduction, followed by a swift and punchy recipe.


This chilli, tomato and olive pasta sauce is so mouth-fillingly rich that your tastebuds will be able to afford an all inclusive to the Seychelles straight after eating it. And while it might look a bit like puttanesca from afar, up close it’s heavier, spicier, and silkier than the classic dish despite using the same sort of ingredients (this isn’t to say it’s better; just different). The umami brawn here is mostly provided by the anchovies which support the sauce with powerful savoury undertones, as opposed to giving off any of the pungent fishiness for which they’re renowned. Promise. This richness is further enhanced by using tomato puree, used instead of passata, or a tin of Choppy Ts.

Gosh, would you just listen to me talk about food. Almost like (gasp) an expert.

I paired it with bucatini because I was feeling fruity, but on reflection, rigatoni would have been better – topologically, these are the same pasta shape but don’t let me ruin your day like that. Anyway, it comes together in around 20 minutes so works well for a quick tea before rushing up northwards to spend a wet weekend in a bothy drinking hot chocolate and playing bananagrams like the wholesome bastard you always knew you were.

Behold: my enviable food photography skills.

To serve two, you’ll need

  • 6-8 anchovy fillets from a tin
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste
  • A mug of olives
  • Half a punnet of slightly squishy cherry tomatoes
  • Enough pasta for two
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan, to serve

Chop your onion finely while you heat up a generous splosh of olive oil. Peel your garlic cloves, then slice them in half lengthways and add them to the oil to flavour it, alongside several twists of black pepper and the chilli flakes. Gently fry the onion with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes, while you boil the kettle for the pasta. Chop the anchovies as finely as you can, and then cut the cherry tomatoes in half too.

When the onions have just softened, start cooking the pasta in lots of salted water. Add the anchovies into the onions, followed by the tomato paste. Stir to combine, and fry this for a minute or three, adding a splash of pasta water if you feel it’s a bit dry. Plop your cherry tomatoes into the frying pan now, and let everything meld down during the time it takes to cook the pasta, periodically dousing the sauce with splashes of pasta water to loosen it. Stir in the olives.

To serve, use a pair of tongs to bop all the pasta into the saucepan and give it a good mix, taking some of that pasta water with you as you go. Give it all a good mix, and serve out of the pan with lots of grated parmesan, to save on washing up.

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