A few nights ago, we had an impromptu dinner with friends for which I provided the main dish. Many people I know have at least a couple of dishes that they can throw together in a hurry out of things that they usually have on hand, and what I prepared was indeed from my standard repertoire.
Earlier this year Jo wrote about how she stocks her pantry, and while my necessary staples vary somewhat according to my family’s tastes – for instance, I try to keep what may seem to others an indulgent amount of chocolate on hand - I take the same approach and know that even if our fridge is almost empty of fresh food we can still eat relatively well until the next shopping trip, contribute to a potluck, or add extra place settings to our table without (much) worry.
Pasta with puttanesca sauce is one of my current go-to out-of-the-pantry dishes. While it is true that fresh tomatoes and a nice, long simmer on the back of the stove improves the flavor of this (or any) tomato-based sauce, I have put this on the table within 30 minutes of arriving home from work, using nary a fresh ingredient, to absolutely no complaints. This is a quick, easy, weeknight dinner when it needs to be, but it can be dressed up and served with a salad and some wine when friends stay for supper.
The proportions of this recipe can be scaled up or down depending upon your family’s tastes, how many servings you need to prepare, how much of each you have on hand (or lack), and how sauce-y your family and/or guests like their pasta dishes. If this sounds too spicy, you can also make my emergency tomato sauce in about the same amount of time.
This recipe is also easily vegetarianable/veganized. While I feel the anchovies are an essential ingredient – you can’t actually taste them but their presence adds a definite depth to the savoriness of the finished dish – they could be omitted and/or substituted with mushroom seasoning.
The puttanesca sauce recipe is followed by a quick, complementary sauce for kids or guests who don’t like spicy food and for whom you’d like to do more than toss pasta with butter or olive oil and top with shredded parmaesan (though that’s always a perfectly reasonable option in my opinion!).
Wendy’s Pantry Puttanesca Sauce
- Minced or chopped garlic – 6+ cloves
- Anchovies (with capers or without) – 4-6 filets
- Diced tomatoes – 4-6 medium or 1-2 regular cans
- Diced chilies and/or red pepper flakes – 2-4 teaspoons or to taste
- Oregano or marjoram – approximately 2 teaspoons
- Green and/or black olives, pitted and roughly chopped – approximately 1/4 cup chopped
- Salt (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Tuna, drained – 1-2 cans
- Pasta of your choice, cooked in salted water according to package directions – we usually like capellini with this sauce
- Shredded romano or parmaesan cheese, for topping
- Sautee the anchovies and garlic in a non-reactive (stainless steel) lidded pot over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, chilies/pepper flakes/peppers, oregano/marjoram, olives, black pepper to the pot and increase heat to medium-high until the ingredients begin to bubble.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook sauce down until it is rather thick. The finished sauce should be somewhat chunky.
- When the sauce has almost finished reducing, begin adding salt to taste using a light hand.
- While the sauce is reducing, cook your preferred pasta according to package directions. If you have young kids or those who don’t like too much spice dining with you, reserve 2 cups of cooking water before you drain the pasta.
- Drain the pasta and place portions into bowls, topping with the drained canned tuna.
- Spoon the finished sauce over the pasta and tuna, topping with shredded parmaesan or romano as desired.
Quick Kid-Friendly Sauce Alternative
This is another one that can be dressed up if desired. The addition of crumbled bacon and peas when tossing the sauce with the pasta makes a particularly good dish.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup finely shredded romano, parmaesan, or a combination of these and/or other hard cheeses
- 2 cups pasta cooking water
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped fresh parsley (optional), approximately 2 teaspoons
- While pasta is cooking, beat the eggs and then combine them with the shredded cheese and parsely, if using.
- Remove 2 cups of water from the pasta immediately before draining.
- Quickly whisk the eggs, cheese, and water together – add the water slowly to control the consistency of the sauce.
- Add salt and pepper to taste pour over still-hot pasta. The heat from the water and the pasta will cook the eggs and render a creamy sauce that’s not quite as heavy as an alfredo sauce but which has a similar flavor.