Focaccia Alla Putanesca

Focaccia Pizza with Tomato and Chilli

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Me, with Nina and Carlo

I spent a lot of time at Aunty Gina’s house and I remember the time I almost ruined my cousin Nina’s twelfth birthday party. On a very hot and sunny day in June, Aunty Gina was busy in the kitchen preparing the party food. Nina’s friends had arrived and they were all playing in the back garden; I was a happy 18 month year old, being fussed over by all the delighted girls.

Fascinated by the fish in the garden pond, I fell in. At that moment, ten 12-year-old girls squealed. Looking around, my wonderful cousin ran over to the pond and quickly pulled me out. Aunty Gina ran out into the garden panicking when she saw me being fished out of the pond, wet through! Many a time Nina has recounted this story to me. “The thing is Anna” she tells me, “I pulled you out, but I was the one who got the blame! And it was my birthday!!” I don’t think she will ever forget that day!!

Try Aunty Gina’s Focaccia Pizza which she is renowned for in our family. The focaccia base gives the pizza a more spongy, bread-like texture.

Focaccia alla Putanesca

Serves 10
510g (1lb 2oz) strong white flour plus extra for dusting * 7g (¼oz) fast-action dried yeast packet * 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing * 310ml (11 floz) lukewarm water * 2 tsp sea salt * 310g (11 oz) passata * 20 anchovies fillets in oil, drained * 2 tsp dried oregano * ½ tsp dried chilli flakes

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the centre and pour in 3 tbsp of the oil with the water. Add in the salt and mix together until all the ingredients are combined. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, add some more flour. Your dough should be nice and smooth. Fold the edges of the dough underneath to form a smooth rounded top. Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Place the dough inside and brush the top with a little more oil. Cover with cling-film and leave to rise in a warm place for one hour until it doubles in size. Brush a baking tray with oil. Put the dough onto the baking tray and flatten it into the corners and make indentations. Brush over a little more oil and cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 40 minutes until it doubles in size.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Press your fingers into the dough to make more indentations. Spread over the passata up to the edges, leaving a 1cm from the edge. Scatter over the anchovies, oregano and chilli flakes, followed by a drizzle of the remaining olive oil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Once cooked, take off the baking tray and cool slightly on a wire rack. Cut into 10 pieces and serve warm.

I have collated all my favourite recipes into one book FOOD FOR ALL OCCASIONS.

This recipe comes from the section THE ITALIAN JOB, a selection of authentic Italian recipes.