Pasta with Olive and Caper Tomato Sauce


The simplest pasta dishes are the most rewarding to cook and eat. This is definitely one of them.

Serves 4


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Pinch of dried chillies (optional)
200g tinned tomatoes
Sprig of fresh thyme
Pinch of sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
16 salted capers, rinsed
16 olives, halved green or black
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

To serve
400g freshly cooked pasta (see note 3. below)


1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic clove and fennel seeds (and the pinch of dried chillies if using) over a gentle heat until the garlic is fragrant but not golden.

2. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the sprig of thyme and the pinch of sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil, turn the heat to low and add the capers and olives and a little black pepper. Season with freshly ground black pepper and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir and continue to cook for up to an hour stirring frequently so it doesn’t stick – add a little water or even white wine if you need to. The oil should rise to the top of the sauce when it’s done.

3. Leave the sauce in the fridge for a day or two to mature or use it immediately. Toss through cooked pasta – you’ll need 100g per person for a main course and half that for a pasta course before a main meat course.

– Use a finely chopped fresh chilli without our without seeds instead of dried chillies.

– If you use capers in vinegar instead of salted capers don’t add the balsamic vinegar used in the recipe.

– Add another tablespoon of olive oil to make a richer sauce – olive oil0= is a flavouring as well as a medium to cook the garlic.

– Add 2-4 anchovies with the tomatoes or a 1/2 tin of tuna or salmon and a little oil from the tin with the tomatoes.

– Use whatever pasta you have: penne, little macaroni as we have used in our photograph, spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle.

– Substitute 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme for the fresh herbs and fry it with the garlic – dried herbs need to be heated to release their flavour.

Image copyright

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