Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

We have a house rule - we must always have the ingredients for spaghetti alla puttanesca in the flat, at all times. Due to the fact that the only fresh ingredients you really need for this recipe are cherry tomatoes and basil, it makes it a pretty easy feat (if I can keep my basil plant alive that is). 

This is because it is my favourite. This combination of tomatoes, chilli, capers, black olives and anchovies is a Naples classic that I will eat in any form - on a pizza, on toast, out of the jar with a teaspoon... It creates a wonderful creamy, tangy flavour thats shot through with the saltiness from the capers, olives and anchovies. All it requires is a bit of chopping, a couple of stirs and you're there.

This 'slut's spaghetti' (as named by Nigella) is an Italian pasta dish, literally translating as 'spaghetti in the style of a prostitute'. Don't worry, the 'lady of the night' part of the dish has nothing obvious to do with the recipe, other than it's quick to make and doesn't require a lot of fresh ingredients - something you can throw together quickly for you and your... friend. I tried to find the exact origin but it's all a little loose so I'm going to go with the fact that it's just a really blooming sexy recipe.

You'll find a lot of recipes for Spaghetti alla Puttanesca out there (all the big names - Jamie Oliver, Nigella, Nigel Slater and the lovely Felicity Cloake to name just a few) and you can even find jarred sauces (NO!) but I will not deviate from this here recipe. Using fresh cherry tomatoes just makes a world of difference and I have found a balance that for me, is perfection. I want to eat this all the time and everyday. That's why I buy my capers in bulk, and try to keep a basil plant alive at all times (not with great success sadly).

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Quantities: Serves 4 (unless all big hungry boys then serves 2-3)

Timings: 20 minutes (5 mins chopping, 15 cooking)

Kitchen Stuff: Wide, heavy based pan (non stick is best) - a wok would work


125ml / 1/2 cup olive oil (I use half extra virgin)
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh red chillies deseeded & finely sliced or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
650g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 heaped tbsp black olives, drained & roughly chopped (jarred in brine or olive oil)
2 heaped tbsp capers
5 anchovies in oil, drained and roughly chopped
Large handful of basil leaves, torn
500g spaghetti (linguine also works well)
Zest of half a lemon


1. When all your ingredients are chopped and ready - heat the oil in a large, heavy based sauce pan or high sided frying pan on a medium/high heat. Add the sliced garlic and chillies and fry until the garlic just starts to colour; then add the tomatoes, capers, olives, anchovies and basil and give it a good stir. Season with some black pepper (the anchovies, capers & olives add a lot of saltiness already).

2. Turn the heat down to medium/low and allow to simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes are softening and the sauce starts coming together. Stir every few minutes to help the tomatoes break down and to make sure the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan.

3. Cook the spaghetti or linguini in plenty of salted, boiling water until al dente. Stir the lemon zest into the sauce just before serving. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the sauce and toss it all together. Serve the pasta sprinkled with basil and a pinch of lemon zest.