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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pantry Puttanesca

This is one for which you can have all the ingredients lounging in your pantry/freezer any time, or at least until the canned goods expire.  The only need-to-shop-now, fresh additions might be a handful of chopped fresh herbs or a couple cups of leftover roasted/grilled/sauteed veggies.  I wouldn't go out of my way to cook anything special for this recipe, but if you've got some leftover zucchini or eggplant, this is a great way to use it up.

A traditional puttanesca sauce uses anchovies, black olives, capers and tomatoes for its base.  If you think you don't like anchovies, think again.  Anchovies are the major flavor ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, giving it the full, rich, salty, umami quality that Worcestershire sauce brings to your favorite marinade (which makes Worcestershire sauce not vegetarian, for anyone who cooks for vegetarian types). 

I choose to use sardines here because I'm currently hot for them, dietarily speaking, for the reasons outlined here.  You can use tuna or the traditional anchovies, if you prefer.  If using tuna or sardines, you can choose to leave them quite chunky (so as to be easily picked around) or flake them up quite a bit before adding to the sauce so they become more of a flavorful ghost in the machine rather than an upfront protein.

If you're in carb-counting mode, spaghetti squash is an excellent substitute for pasta.  To prepare it, whack a spaghetti squash in half length-wise and put both halves cut-side down on a plate that fits in your microwave.  Nuke it for 15-20 minutes, until you can pierce the rind easily with a fork.  Take it out and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Flip the squash over, and use that fork to flake out the "strands" of spaghetti squash.  You can even mix the finished sauce with the spaghetti sauce ahead of time, put it in a casserole dish and freeze it.  Bake the thawed casserole for 30 minutes at 350F.

Pantry Puttanesca
Makes 8 servings
Lyonnaise-style sliced onion: halve
through the root, then slice lengthwise
1 lb. pasta, any shape
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry savory or Italian seasoning
1 cup white wine, vermouth or seafood stock
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
8 oz. black olives, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp capers
2 4.5 oz. cans boneless, skinless sardines or 2 5 oz. cans tuna or 1 small tin anchovies, drained and chopped to desired fineness
Large pinch of red chili flake
Optional: 1/2 cup fresh parsley or basil, chopped; 2 cups roasted/grilled/sauteed eggplant, zucchini or yellow squash, cubed

Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Add a large pinch of salt.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and drain about 1 minute before finished cooking time.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add savory, wine, tomatoes, olives, capers, sardines and chili flake.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Add drained pasta, reserved pasta water, optional fresh herbs and veg, and simmer 1-2 minutes more. 
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