Slapper spaghetti

The particularly delicious Italian pasta sauce known as puttanesca contains olives and capers, along with tomatoes, anchovies, chilli and garlic. The literal translation of my current favourite meal of spaghetti puttanesca is of course “whore’s spaghetti” – though my usual recipe variant is a slightly cheaper version. Hence its new name of slapper spaghetti – I couldn’t think of a more tasteful version of “cheap hooker”, though I would welcome any suggestions.

I always seem to have a store cupboard staple meal that I’m obsessed with at that particular time. A couple of years ago it was oven baked lamb chops with cherry tomatoes & balsamic vinegar (since chops freeze well and I discovered an almost foolproof method of defrosting them quicklyish).

This year, it is slapper spaghetti, so called due to the omission of olives and capers from the traditional puttanesca. Sometimes I do put the olives and capers in, since they are very tasty – but I have to admit to olive jar mould paranoia if its been more than a week since the jar in the fridge was first opened. I wish they did smaller jars, or that I was less of a skinflint and would fork out for the nicer ones from the deli.

The recipe shown here is what I do for myself. I have only ever cooked this for one, as Neal thinks he wouldn’t like it. He always wrinkles his nose up when I get the anchovies out. Incidentally, while I’ll be having this for my dinner tonight, he’ll be having Sugar Puffs.

Ingredients

* Wholewheat spaghetti, because its just better than plain spaghetti
* A good couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes (a small punnet, or 2/3 of a normal one)
* 3 or 4 garlic cloves
* 4 or 5 anchovy fillets
* Chilli flakes & ground black pepper
* Freshly grated parmesan (non-traditional given the anchovies, but VITAL I think)

Method

If you are using tinned anchovies, use the oil in the tin. Heat it up (or a good glug of olive oil if not) in a saucepan. Mince/grate/crush your garlic, and add to the pan, along with the anchovies (chopped). Stir about a bit. The anchovies should sort of disintegrate a bit. Don’t cook this too long, you don’t want it browning really. This is the point you’d put the capers in if you were being purist.

Slice your cherry tomatoes in half and bung into the pan. If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, about three ish normal sized tomatoes would do fine, chopped up. The liquid from the tomatoes oozes out and makes the sauce go saucey. What I like to do here is turn the halved tomatoes cut side down, then squish them into the pan. This doesn’t really matter though, I think I just do it because it’s quite satisfying. Chuck in the chilli (about a pinch or two) and grind in some black pepper. Somewhere between now & serving is where you’d put the olives in if you were making this properly. You’d also add oregano, but I prefer rosemary.

At this point, realise you should have probably put the pasta on to boil already. Using wholewheat dried pasta takes about 12 minutes (Consult the packet. Really. Then sort of assume it lies and check obsessively from about 4 minutes before it suggests). Of course if you’re using fresh there is no need to worry here, and you probably have plenty of time to clean up your chopping board & things so the garlic and anchovy implements don’t stink.

When the pasta is ready (you will of course have been stirring the sauce fairly frequently to ensure it doesn’t stick/burn), drain it, and chuck in the pan with the sauce. Stir around a bit to get it all mixed in to the pasta and away from the sides of the pan, then tip onto your plate or into your bowl. Grate some parmesan all over the top. Or, if you’re like me, take in a bowl containing a couple of hundred grams of freshly grated parmesan so you can keep topping up your dish.

Eat. This should really be enjoyed with a glass of red, but I’m not allowed any wine at the moment.

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