Recipe: Pantry Puttanesca

Pantry Puttanesca

Hey, Nomsters. We thought that with much of the world staying at home to fight the spread of COVID-19, you guys would be looking for easy recipes that are fun to make and eat but, more importantly, utilize pantry staples and ingredients with a long shelf-life, in order to reduce the need to leave the safety of our homes. Whether you’re just starting to explore your abilities in the kitchen or you are looking for a way to get jazzed about eating that ancient tin of tuna you just found in the back of your cupboard, this pantry version of pasta alla puttanesca is an quick way to turn a bunch of things in cans and jars into a satisfying, flavorful meal.

Pantry Puttanesca

This dish is most commonly known as spaghetti alla puttanesca but feel free to make it with whatever dry pasta you have on hand. I used a thinner spaghettini because that’s what I had. Another fun fact about the name of this dish is that it translates from Italian to “spaghetti in the style of a prostitute.” But at its alleged origin, the dish comes from a restaurant owner low on ingredients at the end of the night who was asked to “throw together whatever” and that seems to embody all our cooking styles these days.

Pantry Puttanesca

The key ingredients for this pantry puttanesca are the ones you see above. While the recipe below also calls for fresh basil and some aromatics, you will get plenty of flavor from the olives and capers if you are operating in a situation where you can’t get access to fresh produce at all. Also, most recipes for this dish call for anchovies, but I used my favorite hack for when I am too lazy to pummel a bunch of tiny salty fish…fish sauce! It’s basically the liquid version of the same flavor and it is an absolutely critical pantry staple for me. However, if you don’t keep a huge bottle around like I do, you can sub in soy sauce, or even just a little pinch of salt. If you are missing the other ingredients, I recommend you coarsely chop the olives to better distribute their flavor, and feel free to “throw together whatever” else you want to eat along with them.

Pantry Puttanesca

Pantry Puttanesca

(Makes 2 generous servings)

  • 1/2 lb dry pasta
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) tuna (olive oil packed is preferred)
  • 1 can (14 oz) tomatoes (whole peeled is recommended, but diced or crushed would also work well)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 large onion, peeled
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 sprig of basil, finely chopped
  • grated parmesan or pecorino romano

Prepare to cook the pasta by bringing a pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, chop the onion into about 1/4-inch pieces and coarsely chop the garlic. Halve lengthwise about half of your olives and keep the others whole.

Heat a large skillet on low and add the olive oil and onions. Sauté until the onions become translucent.

Generously salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until slightly short of al dente, about 2 minutes less than the time specified on the box.

While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic to the skillet and stir continuously on low heat. Once fragrant, add red pepper flakes, fish sauce, olives, and capers. Gently pour in the tomatoes and their liquid. Stir often and use a wooden spoon to gently break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks (if using whole ones). Continue to simmer on low until the pasta is ready.

Directly transfer the pasta into the skillet, along with 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and toss to combine all the ingredients. Turn up the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated and the pasta is cooked through. Add the tuna and its liquid; break apart gently into big chunks and toss everything to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Since the olives and capers were so salty, I did not feel the need to add any additional salt.) The dish should feel loose but not runny; add an additional 1/4 cup of pasta water if it seems too dry.

Serve pasta with a garnish of basil and grated parmesan or pecorino.

Pantry Puttanesca

Pantry Puttanesca

Pantry Puttanesca

For more food ideas from me, check out my Instagram, @lilybubbletea.

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