‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’ has to be the world’s most annoying cook book. It sums up everything I hate about the cult of the TV chef. It screams “look at me, don’t you wish you were me?” Look, here’s me and my misses all loved up, and look here are all my cool mates. It is also condescending in the extreme. It tells you how to make a fish finger sandwich for goodness sake, and then, just to be super annoying, it finishes with diet tips under the heading ‘You are what you eat’.
Having said all this, I do think that Jamie Oliver writes some good everyday recipes and this one is just brilliant. It’s also the reason why ‘Happy Days’ has been saved from the charity shop pile on several occasions – despite my husband’s objections (he just can’t stand the way Jamie’s smug photo on the spine follows him around the kitchen).
When I see fresh fennel in the greengrocers I immediately dream of this dish and unusually for a tomato based pasta dish it doesn’t require any cheese on top so it’s great if you’re cooking for someone who’s dairy intolerant.
Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti with salami, fennel and tomatoes
- Olive oil
- 140g of salami, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, lightly cracked in a pestle and mortar or with a knife
- 1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced
- 2 tins of plum tomatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 455g dried spaghetti or linguine
- 1 slice of stale bread
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the salami, sliced garlic and fennel seeds and cook for about a minute until the oil starts to run out of the salami and it begins to crisp.
Add the sliced fennel and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the fennel begins to soften. Now add the tinned tomatoes, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes without a lid until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook your pasta in boiling salted until just soft.
While the pasta is cooking and the sauce is simmering make the crunchy breadcrumbs (Jamie calls these pangritata).
Take a thick slice of bread (white or brown both work well and you can even use the crust end if that’s all you have). Chop the bread into small cubes with a knife or you can make coarse breadcrumbs with a food processor.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan over a highish heat and fry the breadcrumbs until they are golden. If you like you can also add a sprig of rosemary to the pan to flavour the oil and the breadcrumbs (you will need to discard this at the end).
When the pasta is done toss it with the tomato sauce and sprinkle the crunchy breadcrumbs on top.