Spaghetti With Raw Tomato, Fennel, and Olive Sauce

I saw this article in Rowley Leigh’s excellent food column in the Weekend FT, for a room-temperature pasta dish with fresh tomatoes. Perfect for those of us boiling in a hot summer (Rome, NYC, etc.) Even in freezing, windy, temperamental London, it was probably one of the best, fastest and liveliest dishes I’ve made.


The general idea is to put cooked pasta in with ripe flavourful tomatoes, garlic and herbs, but Leigh’s recipe adds toasted fennel seeds and mint: the seeds in particular evoke the flavour of the mezzogiorno, the Italian south, that of spicy sausages, heat, dust, and the African sun.

The sauce: raw tomatoes, garlic, toasted fennel seeds, olives, basil, and olive oil
The sauce: raw tomatoes, garlic, toasted fennel seeds, olives, basil, and olive oil

A very well-written background and recipe in the link. I modified it slightly: basil instead of mint, extra garlic, and a mix of green and black pitted olives. The tomatoes, mixed plum, green, and cherry, are Isle of Wight but pretty much anything (other than nasty Dutch hothouse jobs) would work in high summer. The pasta was bronze-extruded chitarra from Puglia; the hard durum flour of the south, whether Pugliese or from Gragnano near Naples, has a fantastic flavour and texture that can shine with the simplest of sauces (even just Basilicata’s poor dressing of oil and red chili flakes). Barilla and De Cecco bog standard pasta are okay, but Voiello (also owned by Barilla) is better; Eataly in Manhattan should stock more specialised brands.


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