Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

by Kristin on July 13, 2011

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a classic store cupboard staples recipe. Nicknamed “whore’s pasta,” Nigella Lawson writes that “the general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars or tins.” Last week we spent five days in the west of Ireland in County Sligo, and coming home to an empty fridge after driving coast to coast (which, granted, only takes 3 hours from Sligo to Louth), I was still able to rustle this up from basics that I always have in the pantry along with a green salad from my garden. Whore’s pasta to the rescue!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Serves 4 to 6

1 1b 2 oz (500 g) spaghetti
olive oil
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 or 2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 x 1 oz (30 g) can of anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
1 x 8 oz (225 g) can of tuna, drained
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 x 1 1/2 lb (700 g) jar of passata or 2 x 14 oz (400 g) cans of chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
3/4 cup (100 g) stoned black olives, halved
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
green salad, to serve
garlic bread, to serve

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet.

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan (one big enough to accommodate all the cooked pasta later) over a medium-low heat. Add a splash of olive oil, then add in the garlic, chillies and anchovies and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the anchovies have broken down and almost melted, but taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add in the tuna and capers, then stir in the passata or canned tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper, raise the heat to medium and allow to simmer while the pasta cooks.

Before draining the pasta, reserve a mugful of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta directly to the sauce and add in the lemon juice, the olives and most of the chopped parsley. Stir well to coat all the pasta with the sauce, adding in some (or all) of the reserved pasta cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit. Divide the pasta between individual bowls or plates and scatter the remaining parsley on top to garnish. Serve with a green salad, garlic bread and a glass of wine.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ailbhe July 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Love spaghetti alla puttanesca! My version is not as high-class a ‘lady of the night’ as yours as I don’t include tuna. I like to use Crespo Black Olives (dry packed in jars), they’re not pitted but it’s easy to squish the stone out with your fingers and they’re full of deep olivey flavour. I always have a jar lurking around. Hmm might have to make this again soon!
: )

Sasha @ The Procrastobaker July 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I dont believe i have ever had the pleasure of having pasta puttanesca but i am almost certain I would love it as the majority of the ingredients are similar(ish) to my recipe for a salad nicoise which i adorreeee. Long story short i really hope to give this a try soon as i have all the ingredients already hurrah!

Theresa@thegreenapron July 13, 2011 at 8:47 pm

We use sardines instead of tuna – must try it with it though, Got the recipe from an ex boyfriend many years ago who had spent the summers in Florence. That recipe sure beat all the jewelry ,cards and stuffed toys I got from other boys.

Kristin July 14, 2011 at 11:08 am

Ailbhe, I’ve never heard tuna described as high class before! :) Just a cheap and easy way to add in some protein. I love Crespo olives too, though I take the lazy way out and buy the ones that are already stoned.

Sasha, I love salad nicoise too – which reminds me that I have yet to make it this summer! Pasta puttanesca is such a classic, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Theresa, would you believe I’ve never had a sardine? Just one of those things that it never occurs to me to buy or cook with. Love your story about your ex-boyfriend being good for something. ;)

stasty July 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Your pasta looks so perfect. Great pic. I love puttanesca, going to try your recipe next time I make it. Love anchovies.

Kristin July 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks, Vicky! I love anchovies too and would post more recipes with them if I wasn’t so worried that it would be an instant deal-breaker for so many other people.

Aoife Mc July 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Hah! Whore’s pasta! I’ve never heard it referred to as that before. Trust Nigella! It’s a brilliant sauce. So tasty and so very easy to put together.

Glad you had a nice welcome home meal after a few days in Sligo :)

Kristin July 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Aoife, in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen book, she actually nicknames it “slut’s spaghetti”. Ms Lawson does have a way with words. :)

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