A Broken Cooker//Spaghetti Arrabbiata+Chicory Salad

Perhaps my unexpected arrival in Joseph and Maria’s home had brought bad luck.

When I strolled downstairs to properly greet my hosts (I’d been a jumbled mass of garbled sentences the night before) I found them in a state of slight confusion.

A little pool of olive oil settled in the centre of a rustic cast-iron skillet pan which sat patiently alongside their little gas cooker. A box of eggs were lying next to a slab of pancetta on the counter. Something wasn’t quite right though.

The issue soon became evident: the gas cooker had stopped working and was in need of repair.

“Breakfast might be a while, old chap”. Joseph had a sorry look in his eyes. I soon dismissed his apologies and headed off into town to grab some groceries; leaving Joe to search the typically slow Italian internet for a man specialising in gas oven repairs.

At this time of year, Portofino is not quite hitting it’s stride in terms of tourist saturation. With it’s iconic harbour and port, the village is a haven for celebrity holiday makers and Hollywood stars. The Summer sun had yet to truly grace the North of Italy so, for now at least, peace and quiet reigned supreme.

Of course, there is never any real kind of serenity at an Italian marketplace.

Italians like to get their produce early in the day – no lazy Sundays for these people. The little square was packed with busy shoppers, all of them in animated discussions with the sellers and each other. I drifted through the stalls, in no rush, admiring the variation of goods on offer.

With a sudden urge to cook, I reached out for the simplest, freshest ingredients and set back to the house with a raging hunger and desperate hope that the cooker had been fixed.

It wasn’t. However, Maria had set a wood-fire going in the back and settled a grill over the top, which was all I needed to cook my first meal on Italian soil. 

Spaghetti Arrabbiata+Chicory Salad

{Serves 3-4 hungry old folks for a smashing lunch}

For the Spaghetti:

2 fresh red chillies

olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

3 or 4 fresh anchovies

good teaspoon of dried oregano

8-10 ripe, red tomatoes

300g dried spaghetti

150g pancetta

single ciabatta roll or similar italian bread

parmesan for grating

For the salad:

2 heads of chicory/olive oil/2 tbsp white wine vinegar/1 tsp wholegrain mustard/1 tsp sugar


First, give the chillies a good pricking all over with a sharp knife, then drop into a pan, cover with  a good layer of oil and let them cook on a super low heat for a good ten minutes. When they feel soft, pour the majority of the oil into a jar to save for later.

Then slice up 2 cloves of garlic and add to the pan, along with the anchovies and oregano – fry for 2-3 minutes then add the roughly chopped tomatoes and let this cook on a medium heat for 15 minutes.

In the mean time, get your spaghetti on the boil and prepare a crumbly ‘pangratto’ topping along with your salad.

Either blitz the ciabatta in a processor or use a box grater to produce some breadcrumbs. Throw these into a large skillet pan with a good lug of oil on a medium heat. Take your final clove of garlic, chop it up along with the pancetta and add to the pan. Let this fry until everything’s a lovely golden brown colour.

For the salad, simply pour a dash of oil, with the vinegar, mustard and sugar into a jam jar and shake up. Pull apart the chicory leaves and lightly cover with your dressing.

Once your spaghetti’s almost cooked, add it to the tomatoes and chilli. Combine then serve in bowls with that lovely crumbly pangratto on top and your salad on the side.

Grate a little parmesan on top to finish, along with a good crack of black pepper.

[Ideally cooked on working gas hob, but an open fire/electric/induction hobs will do fine.]