Easy Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

A well-made puttanesca sauce can be one of the most intensely flavorful of all the types of sauces in Italian cuisine. The recipe I have for you today is quick, inexpensive, and contains easy to find ingredients. The combination of olives, capers, garlic, hot pepper flakes and anchovies (don't panic! See below for more on this critical ingredient), makes for an unforgettable sauce.

Best of all, you'll easily be able to make this dish in 20-25 minutes from start to finish.

Of course this dish takes its name from uh, ladies of the night. Depending on whose history you prefer, either this was a dish prostitutes would offer to entice customers into brothels, or it was an easy and cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers. Let's just leave that subject right there, shall we? Ever since my inappropriate discussion on stiffly beaten egg whites, I've been trying to keep this blog more G-rated.

The entire dish should cost around $7-8 to make and it serves 5-6 easily. That may not quite qualify for laughably cheap, but it's pretty close. Furthermore, this is a dish that scales quite easily, so you can certainly double the recipe for larger dinner groups.

One final comment on anchovies. If you don't like them, fear not. Laura can't even sit in the same room with an anchovy, yet she absolutely loves this dish. Do not leave them out.

Pasta Puttanesca


3 28-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon oregano
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup small or medium olives (can use oil-cured olives or canned olives, depending on how "casual" you want to be), drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
8 or so anchovy fillets (buy one small tin of anchovies in oil)

Pasta (linguine or fettucine usually works best here)

Combine tomatoes in olive oil in a deep pan or large sauce pan. Turn heat up to medium high. Chop up the tomatoes coarsely with the spatula as shown below. [Note: some puttanesca purists will say drain the juices and strain out the seeds, but that is a lot of work and thus Casual Kitchen says just go with the tomatoes and juices as they come out of the can.]

Then, add each of the other ingredients one by one as the sauce comes to a boil.

Once you've added all the ingredients and the sauce is beginning to boil, turn down the heat to medium low. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you cook the pasta.

Ladle sauce liberally onto pasta and serve immediately!


First, let's take a quick look at a photo of all the ingredients you'll need.

Notice the seemingly extraneous glass of wine. Although this recipe doesn't include wine as a specific ingredient, we have seen before that a glass of wine serves critical functions for the chef, both as an analgesic and a mood-lifter.

Use the spatula to break up the tomatoes into coarse chunks. You'll probably want to at least quarter every tomato, even the smaller ones. Proceed carefully with this part of the recipe, and do not wear white.

I usually pour the capers into a small strainer and then run cold water over theme to rinse them. After that, you can drop the little guys straight into the pan.

Add each of the other ingredients one by one. In goes the garlic!

If you either loathe or fear anchovies, or if they gross you out in any way, skip the next two pictures. But DO NOT LEAVE THEM OUT OF THIS RECIPE. They are an absolutely critical element of the overall flavor of the sauce. Remember, even though Laura claims she cannot sit in the same room with an anchovy, she still loves this dish.

Chop up the anchovies into smallish pieces, maybe the size of an aspirin tablet or smaller. You'll want them to disintegrate in the boiling sauce.

Okay--anchovy haters may now look again....

Bring the sauce to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally:

Ladle onto your pasta. A wide/flat pasta like linguine or fettucine works well for this dish, but honestly any type of pasta is fine.

And enjoy!!

Literacy alert! I'll give away a free gift subscription to Casual Kitchen for any person who leaves a comment naming the author and poem that's excerpted in the picture above. :) Good luck!

Related Posts:
Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking
Eight Tips to Make Cooking At Home Laughably Cheap: The Economics of Cooking, Part 2

Fattoush! A Middle Eastern Salad Recipe


Nope, I'm not swearing at you--this is the name for a delicious, peasant-style salad from the Middle East.

It's healthy, inexpensive, and simple to make. The ingredients are all things you can easily find in your local grocery store--or even grow in your backyard for that matter--so it passes the five easy questions test quite easily.

You'd think there would be nothing special about a salad made from the plain-jane list of basic ingredients below, but once you combine everything, you'll find that you've created an unmistakably exotic dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

(adapted from Taste of the Middle East by Soheila Kimberly*)

1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped into strips
1 cucumber, chopped (
peeled if desired)
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, either pressed or finely minced (I suggest using a garlic press)

2-3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional--I know some people just can't stand cilantro!)
2-3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

pita bread (optional)

1) Coarsely chop the pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and scallions and place them into a large salad bowl. Use a garlic press to add in the garlic. Add in the chopped parsley, cilantro and mint (note: you must use fresh parsley, cilantro and mint here... dried greens here just will not get the job done).

2) To make the dressing, combine the olive oil and lemon juice and season liberally with black pepper (and if desired, crushed red pepper flakes as well). Pour over the salad, reserving any excess dressing, and toss well.

3) Serve with optional pita bread or as a standalone salad. Serves 4-5 easily.

Laura took some beautiful photos of the ingredients and process as I was making the dish, so I'm going to take advantage of her talents and show you a bit of a pictoral how-to in this post. Let me know if it's helpful to you!

First off, whenever you are cooking, it really helps to have some good music playing and a glass of wine within easy reach. Helps ease the pain.

Chop up each of the ingredients and add to a large salad bowl:

I like to cut the greens lengthwise...

...and then crosswise--it's an easy way to make them well-chopped and uniform:

With the mint, I suggest investing a little extra time selecting out only the best leaves:

Using a garlic press will save you a lot of time in this recipe. The garlic really infuses the entire salad. Delicious!

Pour the dressing on top of everything else...

Toss well....

...and then serve and enjoy!!

A few final notes:
1) The dressing is oh-so-simple to make and laughably cheap--why not make a big batch of this and use it on other salads too? I'm wondering now why I even buy regular overpriced salad dressing at the store.

2) This salad will keep well in your fridge for a week (the lemon juice acts as a preservative).

3) Another strength of this dish is its flexibility. The last time we made it, I totally flaked and forgot to buy the cucumber. It didn't matter, the salad still turned out great. Just don't try and leave out the fresh parsley or mint, as those are probably the two most important ingredients because of the smell and flavor they impart to the dish.

4) Sorry about a bit of extra prep work here, but it's well worth it, believe me. I encourage you to try and find a way to outsource it if you can.

Related Posts:
Taste of the Middle East: Over 70 Enticing, Aromatic Dishes from This Fascinating Cuisine (Creative Cooking Library Series) (Amazon link)
Eight Tips to Make Cooking At Home Laughably Cheap: The Economics of Cooking, Part 2
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions
Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking

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Chocoholics Anonymous: Salmonella?


I guess this is all you need to know about whether to eat Cadbury chocolate, at least when you're in the British Isles.

A leaking pipe? Leaking what exactly? Sheesh.


Cadbury pleads guilty in salmonella case

By David Jones 1 hour, 59 minutes ago

LONDON (Reuters) - Cadbury Schweppes Plc, the world's largest confectionery group, pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of selling unsafe chocolate in Britain and Ireland during 2006 and faces an unlimited fine.

Cadbury, which makes Dairy Milk chocolate, was appearing before Birmingham Magistrates' Court after Birmingham City Council prosecuted the London-based chocolate and sweets group over a salmonella-related scare.

"Cadbury has indicated that it will be pleading guilty to the charges brought by Birmingham City Council in relation to the contamination of certain Cadbury products last year," the group said in a statement.

Analysts said they expected any fine would not be material to the group, while the fact Cadbury admitted its guilt early and that it was mistaken that the infection did not pose a threat to health would be seen as mitigating factors.

The case is being referred to the higher Birmingham Crown Court, where fines are unlimited, and sentencing is scheduled to take place on July 13.

The council is prosecuting Cadbury under the UK General Food Regulations and Food Hygiene Regulations for, among other things, failing immediately to alert authorities it had reason to believe some of its chocolate was infected with salmonella.

"Mistakenly, we did not believe that there was a threat to health and thus any requirement to report the incident to the authorities -- we accept that this approach was incorrect," the Cadbury statement added.
A neighboring local council in Herefordshire said on Friday it is to prosecute Cadbury over the same alleged offence. Cadbury said it will be examining these charges.

Cadbury's UK chocolate manufacturing is based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, while the alleged offence took place at its Marlbrook plant in Herefordshire, 80 km south-west of Birmingham.

Cadbury has said it detected salmonella on January 19, 2006, at Marlbrook, which produces chocolate crumb mixture.

On June 23, the company admitted the problem, which was linked to a leaking pipe, and said it was recalling more than one million chocolate bars in the UK and Irish markets because they could contain minute traces of salmonella. It estimated the recall cost at 30 million pounds ($59 million).

The UK Health Protection Agency said later the most credible explanation of an outbreak of salmonella montevideo was the consumption of products made by Cadbury.

After months of investigation, Birmingham Council decided in April 2007 to press charges against Cadbury for selling unsafe chocolate products, failing to report salmonella immediately and for failing food hygiene and hazard controls.

Herefordshire council said it will prosecute Cadbury over six alleged offences related to not keeping its factory in good repair, the plant's layout and provision of adequate drainage, and also the cleaning and disinfection of equipment.

Cadbury is summoned to appear before Herefordshire Magistrates' Court on July 24.

Conclusions from the Chocolate Fast

Well, it’s over.

The 30-day trial without chocolate (or 31 days depending on your math skills), unceremoniously ended with the eating of a single individually wrapped Dove dark chocolate square at 12:01am on June 5th.

Like I said before, I had assumed that this would be the longest month of my life, but as it turned out it was only the second longest. And yes, it was certainly a month of privation, but I also went a little crazy playing the martyr.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it definitely sucked and it was pretty hard to do, but nobody died or anything.

Instead, I had what I would call a month with very little joy in the “stop and smell the roses” sense. You know, those little pleasures that collectively add up to making life worth living. [Memo to Laura: that’s what it’s like to crave chocolate!]

So I can say with confidence that I will NEVER do something like this again with chocolate. Life is too short. From now on I’ll stick to real ways to build character--like trying to save more money or trying to exercise more. Or trying to run another marathon. Those are productive tests of will.

I can also admit that this trial didn’t help me snack less or eat less junk food. If anything, it caused me to be subversively creative, as in “hmmmm, what can I stuff in my face that does NOT contain any chocolate?” How’s that for resourcefulness?

A perfect example: the other day I ducked out of the office briefly to buy a box of... no, not my usual Double Chocolate Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farms, but instead a box of stupid, non-chocolate-containing Chessmen.

The problem was, I was still going to eat the same number of cookies (about 1/3 of the box today, 1/3 tomorrow and then I’d finish it off on the third day). Both types of cookies have about the same fat, sugar and nutritional content (or lack thereof). There's just less pleasure in eating Chessmen. What is the point of that?

I bet that’s how it feels to be in a methadone clinic.

One final comment: it’s been an absolute blast reading and hearing all of the comments I received while on this fast--not just on this blog, but also via email and in person. It’s been encouraging to hear the collective sympathy of the chocolate addicts out there (especially the ones I’m related to), and it’s been pretty amusing seeing the proverbial raised eyebrows and blank stares of all the people who just don’t get it when it comes to chocolate addiction.

You’re missing out on one of the great joys of life.

Chocoholics Anonymous: Day 31 and the END of the Chocolate Fast!

There’s a bit of a controversy as to when this chocolate fast actually ends. In the same post from May 5th where I talked about doing a 30-day trial, I also talked about going off chocolate for one month--until June 5th.

One of my better examples of mental clarity.

Of course, May has 31 days, so a 30-day trial starting May 5th actually ends on June 3rd, meaning technically I was able to eat chocolate as of today. A one-month trial, of course, would last until the end of June 4th, making tomorrow the official first day off the wagon.

This either proves once and for all that my math skills are suspect, or it proves I can’t even properly craft a decent test of character. It certainly is compelling evidence that I’m totally addled by chocolate addiction.

Either way, I’m going to stick it out until midnight tonight. I’ve just conducted the toughest test of my personal willpower I’ve ever had in my life, and I don’t want anybody to accusing me of blowing it on some minor technicality.

And yes, I’m going to eat some (hopefully just “some”) chocolate at the stroke of midnight tonight. I’m not joking. :)

The next time I do an exercise in privation like this, I’ll be sure to do three things:

1) Make it a one-month trial
2) Pick February
3) Do something, anything, other than give up chocolate.

I’ll share my final conclusions and closing thoughts on this chocolate fast in a separate post which I hope to put up shortly.