Despite my best intentions, I’ve already fallen off the meal planning wagon for 2016. I tried to be organised. I tried to write shopping lists and stick to them. But all it takes is one busy weekend and I’m right back to where I started, flying by the seat of my pants in the kitchen.
I don’t mind entirely – there’s something satisfying about rummaging around in the fridge and pantry and seeing what you can create out of next to nothing. This busy day dinner, spaghetti puttanesca, is one such dish and it’s a family favourite when the fridge is bare. In fact, there is no fresh produce in this pasta dish at all. It relies instead on classic Italian staples like tinned tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers, to provide a flavour punch.
Another reason I love spaghetti puttanesca is because of its name. Translated from Italian it means “whore’s spaghetti”, referring to the prostitutes who, the story goes, were too busy with clients to get to the market to buy fresh ingredients. Instead they had to reply on packets and tins to make supper. Or perhaps its just a reference to the punchy, fiery flavours of spaghetti puttanesca? Either way it rolls off the tongue beautifully.
A word on the anchovies, which I have dialled down, and chilli, which I have omitted entirely. Don’t be tempted to leave anchovies out of the sauce – they give it the distinctive tanginess for which the dish is known, without any overt fishiness. You’ll find that they disintegrate into next to nothing when gently sautéed in olive oil. And feel free to spice up the sauce with fresh or dried chillies; I like to add dried chilli flakes to mine at the table.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 6 anchovies, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500g spaghetti
- 400g can diced tomatoes
- 120g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 2tbsp small salted capers, rinsed and drained
- fresh basil and parmesan, to serve
- dried chilli flakes (optional)
- Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions. While it's cooking, get started on your sauce.
- Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Add anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon, breaking them up, for 3 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.
- Stir in tomatoes, olives and capers and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, although you shouldn't need much as the capers and olives will do the job.
- Before draining pasta, reserve ¼ cup cooking water. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the frying pan with the reserved water. Toss everything together gently.
- Serve topped with fresh basil and grated parmesan.