Something had to go.
The fridge was overflowing with stuff - bottles, jars, tubes, packets, containers. Jams, mustards, dressings, sauces - this was condiment heaven. But when so much space is filled with 'things to go with stuff', there stops being enough space for the 'stuff' itself. Something had to go. I needed to make some space. Full jars, (nearly) empty jars, big jars, tiny jars - they needed to be used or consolidated. So, the challenge for the week was set - use up some of the accompaniments to make space for the real food.
A variety of olives; five types of mustards; half a tube of tomato puree; several jars of jam (all on the red spectrum); a random jar of ginger preserve leftover from a roasted ham at Christmas; a few anchovies in olive oil; a couple of jars of capers; some Sauerkraut (come to think of it, that had seen better days); pesto - green and red - and the list goes on.
The olives, tomato puree, anchovies and capers caught my eye and lead me to Pasta Puttanesca - a perfect, easy dinner and a big hitter in terms of clearing out a big chunk of space in the fridge.
So what is Pasta Puttanesca?
For me this is the King of robust, hearty and bold pasta sauces - it's meaty without containing any meat and has enough of a kick to give it some personality without being too fiery. Much of the sauce is made up of olives, chopped up small and then there's the kick from the chillis and capers. Don't be alarmed by the inclusion of anchovies, they really do add a special note and they mingle in amongst all the other big hitters. Beware of poor Puttanesca imitations ...... they tend to have too many tomatoes and not enough of anything else - you have been warned!
What have I learned about making Puttanesca?
My starting point for this dish was a recipe in Delia's Summer Collection. I've tweaked the method slightly to make it a little less fuss, but to be honest it remains largely true to the original.
- Most of the hands-on effort here is chopping. It's a job that you can do ahead of time and depending on how invested you are, you can opt to chop less finely if the mood takes you that way.
- Omit the anchovies if you'd like the sauce to be vegetarian.
- The recipe scales up beautifully.
- It reheats without any issue and freezes perfectly.
- There's no need to be too precious about the exact quantities - especially if you are using up bits and bobs of ingredients. This is a recipe where you can freestyle depending on what you have and how you like your sauce.
- I've also been known to use chopped, tinned tomatoes rather than fresh - no drama.
And have we ended up with more space in the fridge? I think yes - at least I've cleared the olive and caper mountain. The Sauerkraut has gone to Sauerkraut heaven and the selection of red jams got combined to make an Arctic Roll (remember those Bird's Eye ones from the eighties?!). The five types of mustard will always have to stay and maybe the ginger preserve will see us through to next Christmas .....Print