A few weeks ago at the restaurant, we were about to make some food for the staff before we headed into another busy night at work, when the manager at Amici, Pino Genchi, piped up and asked us if we would like to try something his mum used to make him when he was a child back in Bari, southern Italy.

Intrigued to see what the veteran restaurateur grew up on, we all agreed.

Now, I have eaten a lot of different pasta dishes, many of which you will never find on restaurant menus, but what came out from that kitchen was something I have never tasted before – it was simply exquisite.

It had the base recipe of spaghetti aglio, olio and peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli), which is one of my favourites, but with added anchovies and capers, which gave it a salty kick, and croutons that soaked up the oil making the dish dryer and surprisingly less oily.

After licking the bowl clean, I was stunned for a few moments at what my tastebuds had just experienced and immediately thought about you, the Keighley News readers, and how I had to share this undiscovered dish from the past with the world.

When I asked Pino for the recipe, he explained to me about the origins of the dish and why it was so popular with families in southern Italy in the 1950s.

He said: “Spaghetti Alla Poverella translates to spaghetti for the poor. I’m not sure if that is the correct name for the dish today, but that’s what we called it when I was a child.

“Back then, food was hard to come by for the average working class families, and with nine brothers and sisters, there were a lot of bellies to feed.

“The dish got its name from the ingredients that were around at that time. Bari, being on the southern coast of Italy, meant fish was cheap, particularly anchovies. Other ingredients, like capers, olives and pepperoni, were also cheap and in abundance, so we used to make pasta from anything we could get our hands on for very little money.

“The toasted bread, or crostini as we call it, was added to give the dish sustenance and to fill us up. I’m not sure that with today’s prices and the cost of these ingredients in England now that it would still have the same name,” he laughed.

For the fans of spaghetti aglio olio with no cholesterol and only 250 calories, this is a must-try dish. It’s not a sauce-based dish like many of the mainstream pastas, which means the flavours and ingredients coat the spaghetti making each mouthful a true delight.

Hats off to you and your mum, Pino, for bringing this dish into our lives. Now, who’s hungry?


Spaghetti Alla Poverella
Extra virgin olive oil (100ml per person)
Red onion, diced
Anchovies, diced
Pepperoni, diced
Garlic, finely chopped
Pitted black olives
Bread, cubed (half-a--slice per person)
Black pepper
Chilli seeds, optional
1. Add water to a saucepan with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil, then add the spaghetti
2. Under a medium heat grill, toast the cubed bread
3. The sauce doesn’t take very long to cook, so having the spaghetti and toast already cooked will prevent you from burning the ingredients in the sauce
4. In a large frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic and red onion and fry until soft – about five minutes
5. Add the anchovies, capers, olives, pepperoni (and optional chilli) and fry for five minutes
6. Add the cooked spaghetti to the frying pan and fold in/stir, making sure the spaghetti is well coated with the sauce
7. Add the toast and stir in again, then serve
8. Grate on some parmesan and black pepper and prepare to be amazed!