Simon Fairfax’s Pasta Schizophrenica [RECIPE]

(Photo courtesy Simon Fairfax)

Simon Fairfax, author of the new Medieval saga that begins with A Knight and a Spy 1410, is not only a very capable writer, he also knows his way around a kitchen. He received this recipe from “Alice’s” (the Contessa’s) mother (see our recent interview for details), who calls it Pasta Schizophrenica, as it turns out differently each time! The good thing is, like so many typical Italian dishes, there’s really no right or wrong when preparing this dish, hence the name. In essence, this is very simple and quick to prepare, and can be made in about 10 minutes. “But you must use good quality, fresh ingredients,” Simon says. “This recipe includes what works on a regular basis. However, you could use no basil or more pepper; passata rather than chopped tomatoes; pasta instead of gnocchi; sliced pancetta rather than cubed; etc., etc. Well, you get the picture! Pork, especially wild boar—Cinghiale—is very popular around Tarquinia/North Lazio and features in many dishes.” We hope you enjoy this recipe, as written and photographed by Simon himself. —J&H

COOK: 10 minutes


  • 2 full fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 large banana shallot finely chopped
  • 2 ish tablespoons of everyday olive oil 
  • large knob of salted butter
  • Can of good quality chopped tomatoes OR a small jar of passata
  • A generous handful of fresh basil, then finely chopped with a mezza-Luna
  • 2 cartons of diced pancetta/lardons OR sliced pancetta
  • A generous handful of freshly grated parmesan
  • A good dollop of double cream
  • Fresh black pepper to season 1-2 packets of gnocchi OR pasta to suit


First, heat your bowls (I hate it when food is served on cold plates and bowls) in readiness as this dish gets cold quite quickly.

Heat a heavy-based pan (I like using a risotto pan) preferably with 2-inch sides, over a low to medium heat and throw in the oil and the butter. Separately, boil a large saucepan of water without a lid.

Melt butter in pan
(Photo courtesy Simon Fairfax)

When the butter melts add the shallots stirring gently. They should soften, not brown. As soon as they do, add the garlic and be careful not to burn it. Cook for additional 30 seconds to one minute only.

Add the pancetta and stir well until cooked.

Cook pancetta
(Photo courtesy Simon Fairfax)

Add the can of tomatoes/passata until it just starts to bubble, then add the grated parmesan and stir in well until all melted. It should all be simmering no more at this point. If you are using pasta start it now in the boiling water.

Add the chopped basil and stir in. Then add the cream. It should at this point go a lovely pink color. Stir gently ensuring that it doesn’t curdle. Finally add fresh black pepper to taste. If using gnocchi empty into boiling water now and keep the sauce simmering gently stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Pasta Schizophrenica sauce
(Photo courtesy Simon Fairfax)

NOTE: On gnocchi, so many people get it wrong you literally only want a few balls to rise to the surface and it is ready. If you cook it too long it goes all floury and horrid.

As soon as the pasta/gnocchi is done, drain and serve in the bowls, then put a portion to suit on top of the sauce and eat immediately, no talking forever like the Italians whilst it gets cold! 😊!

Pasta Schizophrenica
(Photo courtesy Simon Fairfax)

WINE RECOMMENDATION: I find a good Montepulciano di Abruzzo or Nero d’Avolo goes well with this as it is very rich and the reds cut through nicely.

YIELD: 3 to 4 servings

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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