Pasta alla Siciliana

First, let me say I’ve never been to Sicily. I’ve been to Italy, places like Rome, Turin and Milan and did my best to try as many classic Italian recipes while I was there. If there’s an Italian cookery programme on the tv, I’m there, Chef’s Table, Keith Floyd, Antonio Carlucci and Gennaro Contaldo, Gino D’Acampo, Rick Stein, even Jamie Oliver. I didn’t discover garlic until I kissed an American girl when I was eleven. That was the first time I tasted pasta, too. I own an English translation of The Silver Spoon and I’ve read Pellegrino Artusi‘s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, from cover to cover but my real go to Italian cookbook is the modestly titled Pasta & Pizza, the 1978 edition, with recipes compiled by Anna Martini and an introduction by Massimo Alberini.

Of course, there are plenty of Italian restaurants in Ireland and plenty of Italian families with a long tradition in this country. So down the years, I’ve eaten many Italian dishes and from many regions of Italy. I’ve made pasta and tried different sauces and styles.

I don’t know if this dish is really a Sicilian recipe but it was given to me by a Sicilian chef. Secretly, I think it is more like a Neapolitan recipe – salty and saucy –  but regardless, it’s easy to prepare, very cheap to prepare and delicious.



  • six anchovies, deboned and finely chopped.
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • one clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of fine tomato passata
  • two chillis, finely chopped
  • one tablespoon of capers
  • pasta, penne is best but I use spaghetti, it’s a personal choice.



Boil a pot of salted water. Put in the pasta and reduce heat to a simmer.

Heat a pan and add olive oil. Sauté the finely chopped onion until it softens, then add the anchovies, chillis and garlic in that order. Allow the flavours to amalgamate, cooking gently. Now add the capers. Finally, the passata. You can add some finely chopped but deseeded tomatoes, earlier, for texture.

When the pasta is cooked, strain it, reserving a cup of pasta water.

Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and stir, coating the pasta. Add a little of the reserved pasta water and leave on heat to cook for a couple of minutes, while it reduces.

Transfer the mixture to a warm serving dish, pour some olive oil on it and serve with chunks of rough Italian country bread.