When the Weather Outside is Frightful
Well, we had four easy winters so I really can’t complain – too much. But this winter has seesawed between a polar vortex and just plain dreary and wet. So going shopping – even when it is from my garage to the supermarket’s – holds little to no appeal. This pasta tuna puttanesca is the perfect answer because it is made almost entirely from pantry staples. And the best part is that it can be thrown together in under an hour.
Good for Your Health and Your Budget
We all know that it is healthier and more budget-friendly to cook at home than to order in or go out. This dish is so flexible and so quick to prepare that it can feed a crowd or a couple. There is no need to buy fancy canned tuna, although it’s certainly fine if you do. Use what you have on hand or would normally buy. Whether you like tuna packed in olive oil or water – chunk “light” or albacore – it all works.
This pasta dish is low in fat, high in flavor. Make it as puttanesca-like and spicy as you like or add just enough hot pepper flakes to tickle your taste-buds. If you have fresh parsley – great. And if you don’t, it will still be good. However, you do need a flavorful pitted olive (I usually use pitted Kalamatas myself) and I personally think that briny capers are a must. Mario Batali said that you should never use cheese on pasta dishes with fish or seafood. It may be breaking one of the sacraments of Italian cooking, but
I happen to like cheese with fish. There is no judgment here. I leave that decision in your capable hands.
Don’t even measure. I will give you some measurements below, but please use them only as a guide. If you want more tuna, use more. More olives – go for it. If you really enjoy anchovies, they can be added when you are browning the onion and garlic. The anchovy will break down, again adding a bit of briny flavor.
Let’s Get Started
Ingredients for Dinner for 4-6 People
- 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
- 12 ounces of canned tuna, drained
- 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 28 ounces (or 2 smaller cans) of chopped tomatoes in their own juice
- 2 Tablespoons good quality tomato paste
- About 1 Tablespoon, finely chopped garlic
- About 6 ounces coarsely chopped, flavorful pitted olives
- 1-2 Tablespoons capers, drained
- 2-3 strips of anchovy, drained (optional)
- Hot pepper flakes and salt, to taste (you can always add more but you can’t remove it once added)
- 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water
- One bunch of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and divided in 2 parts
- 13 ounces to 1 pound of a firm pasta like a penne or rigatoni, preferably rigate (with ridges)
- Heat a large pan and add the EVOO. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the edges are just beginning to brown. Add the anchovy, if using, It will break down, melting into the EVOO and garlic.
- Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir through.
- Add all of the ingredients (half of the parsley) except for the starchy pasta water. Mix through and cook on simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. This can be made ahead and reheated or made right before eating while the pasta cooks.
- When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to directions. Just before the pasta is al dente, remove 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and add it to the puttanesca sauce. Stir through and continue cooking while you drain the pasta.
- Toss the drained pasta into the pan of sauce (if the pan is large enough) or pour the sauce over the pasta when you serve it. Garnish with the remaining parsley and grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese, if desired. I like to serve a salad alongside, but if your fridge is bare, this will satisfy on its own.