But there are days when I am some combination of deathly tired, morbidly lazy, or very hungry. Those are the times when I look in the refrigerator once every minute, sigh, and shut the door. When working and waiting for an hour for a meal has all the appeal of a brisk hike in the Sahara. For moments like this, I have spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca has 3 things going for it:
1. It goes from zero to table in 20 minutes flat. The only prep required is chopping garlic and anchovies, plus opening some containers.
2. Said containers keep very well in your fridge and cupboard. If you’ve done it right, you should be able to make this dish without leaving your house.
3. It is a flavour-packed, lip-smacking bowl of deliciousness.
I lived on puttanesca in my last year of undergrad, and it’s still one of my favourite dishes of all time. Unfortunately, I rarely make it now, blessed as I am with a partner who thinks that anchovies, olives, or any combination thereof are the devil’s work. It’s become a rather sneaky pleasure, eaten at home alone while watching dumb romantic comedies.
This recipe reflects my abiding love of all things salty and pickled, but you can adjust the quantities of all the sauce ingredients (except the tomatoes) to your taste if you’re not quite as keen. It makes enough sauce for two people; so if you’re dining à deux, just double the amount of pasta.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Makes one big, saucy bowlful
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 50g/2oz tin anchovies, drained and chopped
0.5 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 400g tin/14oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
10-12 Kalamata olives, pitted
2 tablespoons capers
freshly ground pepper
100g/3.5oz dried whole wheat spaghetti
Warm the olive oil, garlic, anchovies, chili, and oregano in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Start stirring when the oil begins to sizzle. When the anchovies have mostly dissolved and the garlic is turning golden, add the tomatoes, olives, capers and pepper. Bring the sauce up to a simmer, then leave to bubble while you cook the pasta.
Bring a pot of salted water up to the boil, then add the spaghetti. Cook according to the package instructions – I find mine take about 10 minutes to reach the right texture. When it’s done, drain briefly, then add to the sauce.
Serve up in a bowl, without Parmesan (the anchovies provide all the umami this needs).