2 March 2011

Pasta Puttanesca with Tuna - at last!

You may be wondering why the addition of "at last!" in the title there.

Well, you see, I was beginning to think that I'd never get the chance of making this 'ere pasta dish.  The last THREE times it has appeared on the menu list, it has been bumped off for one reason or another.  I was beginning to think it was cursed - or that hubby and son viewed its inclusion on the list with such trepidation that they were going to all kinds of lengths to avoid having it.

However, it turns out it was just unfortunate circumstance that brought about its loss from the menu lists and we successfully ate it for dinner a few nights ago.

Now you may also wonder about the addition of tuna to the recipe, as I know that a strict pasta puttanesca is largely vegetarian (if you forget about the anchovies).  The trouble is, that my boys (both large and small) are committed carnivores.  If the meal doesn't include meat of some kind - and fish is included under the heading of "meat" for this purpose - then it's not "dinner".

So, having come across Delia Smith's recipe for straight Pasta Puttanesca and liking the look of it very much, I immediately began to consider what meat I could include and how it would go.  Should it be included in the recipe, or the recipe used as a side dish to the meat?  I considered bacon, but we've already got a number of successful pasta dishes that use bacon and I'd rather use something else.  Then, the anchovies raised their delicious little heads, which got me to thinking tuna.  Having re-read the method, it seemed entirely logical to include a tin of tuna right at the end when the sauce is pretty much made.  That way, the tuna wouldn't be broken up too badly.

I have to admit that I tinkered around with Saint Delia's recipe something awful (shallot, red pepper, wine, fish sauce, ketchup .. the list goes on) - but then considering the scrumptious dish that resulted, I'm not of a mind to apologise for doing so!  I think I can safely say that this is the first dish I've made, that I've been actively aware of the Umami (the fifth taste sensation) involved.


Ingredients :

350g spaghetti or linguine (more, if you are hungry!)
3 drops olive oil
1 pinch sea salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 red pepper, seeds removed and sliced small
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped
150ml red wine
50g anchovy fillets, drained
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
50g pitted black olives
1 tbsp capers, drained
400g tin cherry tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
tin of tuna in spring water, drained
pinch black pepper.

Method :

1.  To make the sauce, heat the oil gently in a medium saucepan then add the shallot and red pepper and cook them slowly until softened.

2.  Add the garlic and basil and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Then add the red wine and allow it to bubble until reduced by approximately half.  This should only take a few minutes.

3.  Add the anchovies, fish sauce, ketchup, olives, capers and tomatoes and season with black pepper.  Do not use salt, as you've already got salt in the form of the anchovies and fish sauce.

4. Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for some 40 minutes, stirring from time to time, by which time it will have reduced to a lovely thick mass with very little liquid left.  Taste for seasoning and add the sugar if the acidity is too much.

6.  Add the tuna and a little extra basil to the tomato sauce and stir gently to combine.  Allow it a minute or two to heat through sufficiently.

5. While the sauce is reducing, cook the spaghetti or linguine to manufacturer's instructions, except adding the three drops of olive oil and making sure the water is salted.  Drain the pasta when there is still a little bite left in it and return it to the pan.  Aim to have the pasta ready when the sauce is finished.

6.  Serve on warmed plates with plenty of grated parmesan cheese and garlic bread.


  1. What do you mean....."This ere pasta dish"
    Another fantastic dish, well, it's Italian, and all things Italian.......Even better if their Sicilian...(cough...cough).
    And the ingredient that makes this dish are the Anchovies, forget the meat, as the fish is more in keeping with the lightness of the pasta, and of course so much better for you.....AND.....I love Anchovies.....! :)
    Lovely recipe Jenny, one of your very best.

  2. Yes, I felt that the tuna was far better suited to the character of the recipe. Anything with anchovies in it is a definite, for me. Love the little blighters! lol

  3. Oh!....just one other thing, nothing to do with food.....!
    Let you all sort it out for yourselves....But...
    Puttana....Is a lady of the night (Keep'in clean).
    Putteneggiare....To be a lady of the night.
    Puttaniere.....A frequenter of ladies of the night.
    Next time l speak to my family in Sicily, l'll ask, if this dish is has anything to do with 'Ladies of the Night'....! :0)

  4. Omnomnomnomnom. We make a version of this which is called Slag's Pasta in our house. ('Putana', for the uninitiated, is Italian for 'Prostitute'. The dish evolved as being representative of a style of cooking that was a) speedy b) tasty and c) used whatever-the-hell was in the cupboard.)


  5. Oh!...Thankyou Ms Cousins.....Oh! well, to hell with it.......Can l use the word as well....
    'Prostitute'. And, me a good Catholic Sicilian....
    AND...If you believe that......!!! lol :0)
    (Lady if the Night, sounds nicer).

  6. Well, apparently Saint Delia refers to the original recipe as "Tart's Spaghetti". Same theme, I suppose. :)

    Laura : I remember your saying about your Slag's Pasta and had that in mind when I first tripped over the recipe. I also remembered your saying it was good for "using whatever the hell was in the cupboard" - and you know how I like those recipes!


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