Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fish day pasta

Here's a pasta sauce that is Lenten (on a fish day) but also tastes good, nourishes a pregnant woman and her husband and is pretty cheap. The Lenten thing was pretty much an accident. I looked at the calendar yesterday morning, saw that it was a fish day and spent the whole day obsessing about sardines.

Pasta Puttanesca is supposed to include capers, and doesn't call for artichokes, but I think the substitution is forgivable. In general, we've taken almost religiously to using at least one anchovy, disintegrated with garlic in olive oil, as the base for tomato sauces. A whole can of sardines makes this sauce a little more assertively fishy, like "hey, I'm an INGREDIENT." I got the kind packed in extra virgin olive oil so that I could use the fishy liquid from the can in my sauce.

Amounts are ish-y on this sauce. Time can be ish-y too. I happened to start my sauce very early and just kept stirring in more tomato paste and water as it simmered and I puttered around my kitchen. I spent about 40 minutes doing this, and my sauce ended up being very rich, but I imagine it could be thrown together more quickly and still taste like BAM! The flavors really start harmonizing after 20 or 30 minutes, though.

Pasta Puttanesca-ish
1 lb linguine or fettucine
olive oil
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 4 oz can oil-packed sardines, or a can of anchovies if you'd like less fishy material, or both if you're crazy about fish
1 - 16 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste (you won't use the whole thing)
15-20 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (amount depends on your patience)
a can of black olives if you ain't choosy

1 -16 oz can of artichoke hearts, chopped

Start the water a-boilin' even if you plan to take a long time with your sauce. You can always turn it off and on again.

Making the Sauce
Heat olive oil and pour in oil from the fish. Saute garlic and fish over low heat until fish disintegrates.

Add tomatoes. Turn up heat to medium, high enough to start cooking the liquid down. Add olives.

When the sauce has reduced a bit, add a spoonful of tomato paste and about 1/4 cup water. You can also use brine from the olives as your liquid if you like. Reduce again and repeat until you like the looks of your sauce. The more disintegrated the particles, the better.

Add the artichoke hearts when you're about 10-15 minutes away from eating, as they are more delicate than the olives.

Important pasta/sauce integration technique:
 Get the pasta water going again and cook the pasta until it is slightly toothier than you like it. Before straining, reserve about 1 cup pasta water. Strain and return to pot. Quickly add a few glugs of oil, and pour the sauce into the pot. Return to medium heat and cook the pasta in the sauce for about five minutes, stirring frequently, so that the noodles absorb the sauce. I continually splash the pasta water back into the pot as I stir. The starch in the liquid will help bind the sauce to the noodles. You do not need to use the whole cup of pasta water.

Season generously with pepper, but tread carefully with the salt (sardines, olives, and artichoke hearts are already salty.)

This can sit around for a few minutes off-heat before you eat it. It is also very good as leftovers. I wouldn't even hesitate to make it ahead of time and warm it up (ON THE STOVE) for dinner.


  1. So, if you can find them, the tomato paste that comes in a tube (like Amore Italian Tomato Paste) does away with the annoyance of having a tin of have-used tomato paste in the fridge. Might be able to find it at Walmart; otherwise, maybe somewhere in Indy.

    1. Oh that's a great idea. Is it more expensive? It'll probably be worth it if I don't have to throw away half-used cans of metallic tasting tomato paste at a time.

    2. Yes, it is pricier than buying the can. However, if you don't use up the whole 6 oz. and end up throwing it out anyway, then it might be worthwhile to spent the extra $. If you're an organized person I suppose you can freeze the extra in the tin. The tubed stuff lasts forever in the fridge. I can usually find it for $3.50.