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

Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Image by David Malosh / Contributor
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March 16, 2021

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.

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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

Ingredients

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

  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.

Reprinted from The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipe. Text copyright © 2021 by Sam Sifton and The New York Times Company. Photographs copyright © 2021 by David Malosh, and food styling by Simon Andrews. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.