Thursday, 23 January 2014

Farfalle with ‘nduja, anchovies, red wine and cherry tomatoes

It’s been a while since my last post. Tragically, my twin brother died very suddenly just before Christmas after a very short battle with cancer. All thoughts of cooking flew out the window as my family came together to support each other through the most difficult time imaginable.

I’ve only been back in London a week or so, and it feels good to slowly get back into a normal routine, even though I’m not sure I know what normality feels like anymore. Like many other food centrics, cooking proves therapeutic and healing, and never more so than in the last couple of weeks. Luckily, I’ve had some spare time on my hands recently, so I’ve had afternoons to tuck my head into the butchers, and time to nosy about the green grocers again. I’m finally itching to get back in the kitchen, and with thoughts firmly on my wonderful brother, this was always going to be my first post… 

The inspiration for this recipe is the pasta of my youth. It was one of the first things that I was confident in cooking, and would cook it at any given opportunity. When my parents went on holidays I was always in charge of the cooking, and invariably we would eat this dish two or three times over that period. This became my brother’s favourite, and we would gorge on it until we were fit to burst before laying on the sofa groaning in pain. When we stopped living in the same house, he would always phone me to be reminded of the recipe, complaining that he had tried to make it but it hadn’t been “quite right”. 

Of course in those days I hadn’t even heard of things like ‘nduja, and it was a good few years until I would learn to make pasta. The sauce would be made with chorizo or bacon, mixed with a tin of chopped tomatoes and then poured over whatever dried pasta we had in the cupboard. This recipe is slightly more refined, but the taste still brings back warm happy memories. 

‘Nduja seems to be a very trendy ingredient at the moment in restaurants and food blogs, but despite this it’s still relatively difficult to get hold of. It gave me a great excuse to head to Borough Market where I found a wonderful British made variety. The texture of the soft salami is similar to those I have tried before, but the taste is slightly less spicy and more fragrant with fennel seeds. Delicious. My brother always hated anchovies, but accepted them in this sauce as they just melt away and enhance all of the other flavours. 

Although my reasoning for making farfalle in this recipe was in tribute to the random pasta shapes that we used to find at home, the shape is very suitable with the sauce. The large surface area grips the sauce meaning that you get a good taste with every mouthful.

Serves 2 


For the pasta: 

200g ‘00’ grade flour
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
Good pinch of salt 

For the sauce: 

1 shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
½ red chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
80g ‘nduja, skinned and chopped roughly
1 glass red wine
15-20 very small ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
Olive oil 

Salt and pepper

To finish: 

Parmesan, finely grated
Basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

To make the pasta, put the flour, eggs, salt and oil into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead well for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic in texture. Wrap with clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll through the thickest setting 6-10 times, folding after each pass. Lightly dust the sheet with flour then pass once down through the settings until you reach the thinnest. Lay the long, thin pasta sheet onto a floured surface. To make the farfalle, cut small rectangles out of the sheet and shape them by gently pushing out the middle and folding in the narrow sides to form a bow tie. Put each one on a lightly floured sheet of greaseproof paper. They can be used straight away, but are best after allowed to dry for a few hours.

Fill a large saucepan with well salted water and bring to the boil. 

To make the sauce, heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook the shallot, garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds, chilli and paprika over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Season a little. Add the ‘nduja and anchovy and continue to fry for another few minutes, stirring until they almost melt into the mixture. Turn the heat up slightly and pour in the red wine and allow to reduce by half. Stir in the quartered tomatoes until slightly softened.

Tip the farfalle into the boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes. When cooked, use a slotted spoon and transfer the pasta to the frying pan with the sauce, along with 1 tbsp of the cooking water. Stir gently to combine the sauce and pasta and cook for a further minute. Taste and season if necessary.

Transfer the coated pasta to warmed plates and top with basil leaves, grated parmesan, cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


  1. Oh Sam I just cried as I read this. I'm so glad you're cooking and writing again but it's mixed with a deep, deep sadness for you and your loss. This is a beautiful post and a gorgeous and poignant recipe. Thank-you for sharing it xx

  2. This is such a touching post. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  3. Hi Sam, I've just started reading your blog and am loving it. This looks like such a beautiful recipe and a lovely way to pay tribute to your brother - I'm so sorry for you and your family on what must be a huge loss.