This "Free-Form" Pasta Puttanesca Makes The Most Of Canned Ingredients

mbg SEO Editor By Eliza Sullivan
mbg SEO Editor
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Olives, sardines, canned tomatoes, pasta, capers, chili flakes, Garlic
Our editors have independently chosen the products listed on this page. If you purchase something mentioned in this article, we may earn a small commission.

Imagine a cookbook with no recipes—hard to picture, isn't it? But that's exactly what the new New York Times Cooking book is: pages full of meals without measurements, exact timings, or specific guidelines. But really, some dishes that just lend themselves to this sort of cooking: breakfast scrambles, sandwiches, and even simple pasta dishes like this one.

Pasta puttanesca is a dish based on the original spaghetti alla puttanesca, which originated in Naples, and it's a prime example of frugal Mediterranean cooking. This balanced and briny dish features an array of canned foods, which means it's perfect to keep in your back pocket (and the back of your pantry) for those days when you really meant to go to the grocery store but didn't quite make it.

Use this "recipe" to guide you—check off the ingredient list and look to the method for advice rather than concrete steps—even if that feels slightly outside your cooking comfort zone. With assertive flavors and ingredients like anchovies (an awesome sustainable fish), capers, and red pepper flakes—you're better off tasting as you go, to adjust the ratios to fit your palate.

Pasta Puttanesca


  • Anchovies
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan


  1. Sauté some anchovies and a lot of minced garlic in a lot of olive oil while your salted pasta water comes to a boil in a big pot. (How many anchovies? How many you got? I go for a minimum of four, and the same with cloves of garlic.)
  2. Add your pasta to the pot. When the fish are melted and the garlic's gone gold, add a large can of tomatoes and stir everything together.
  3. Let that simmer a while and get a little thicker, then add the olives and capers, and red pepper flakes until it's as fiery as you like. Taste for salt and pepper.
  4. Keep simmering and, when the pasta is done to your liking, taste the sauce again, drain the pasta, and toss it with the sauce. Shower the dish with grated Parmesan and serve.

Tip: You can cook the dried pasta directly in the sauce if you like, adding a couple of cups of water or chicken stock and covering the pan for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.


More On This Topic

How To Make Healthy & Delicious Meals
More Food

Popular Stories


Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Your article and new folder have been saved!