Like many of you, I am time poor. I love to cook, but with every aspect of my life keeping me busy I physically just don't have the time to cook up fancy dishes every night.
However, if I have taken anything from all the gazillions of dollars I have spent on cookbooks, I reckon I may have become somewhat a master of quick cookery. Food that's nutritious, tastes good and best of all … doesn't take hours.
I wanted to share with you my GO TO recipe of all recipes - the one where I am plonked on the couch and have no idea what to cook nor the energy too cook it but know its only 20 minutes away from being on the plate, served and devoured.
I first discovered this recipe when we were living in Holland 6 years ago - in a one-bedroom apartment without an oven. Looking back now, I don't even know how I survived without an oven - but when you barely know how to cook, I suppose it’s not on your list of must-haves.
I did have a few recipe books to my name - mostly the 2-euro clearance bin variety - but scarcely used them. The last thing I ever wanted to cook was Seafood Chowder (they are the kind of recipes you get in the clearance bin) and so in those days I pretty much stuck to the basics - Bolognese, chicken stir-fry … Repeat. My poor husband (then boyfriend).
And THEN someone at work sent me a leaked Jamie Oliver recipe book via email - do you remember the one? It was HUGE circa 2007. At the time of circulation, I had never seen so many conscientious staff members in my office block at one time "staying back" after work to do "printing".
Back then, a free Jamie Oliver recipe book was a real coup. They cost a fortune in the bookshop and he was just becoming famous for being Naked. I took those 200 or so pages home (like a criminal) and skimmed through them with my husband until I spotted one I loved the sound of … Spaghetti Puttanesca.
It was a hit then and it’s a hit now.
Over the years I have tweaked it a bit so I don't know Jamie's exact method anymore but I'll give you mine. We cook it at least once a week and every single person in my family (including my 20-month-old) loves it - but the kiddies have it minus the chilli.
2 cans whole tomatoes
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon baby capers
100g chopped anchovies in olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
10 or 15 pitted kalamata olives
1 dried chilli (chopped) or chilli flakes (to taste)
Extra Virgin Olive oil (from jar of anchovies) plus extra
300g of Spaghettini no. 3
1. Heat a saucepan on medium-high heat and pour in the olive oil from the anchovies. This will ensure the oil has a lovely anchovy flavour that will add to the sauce.
2. Add the garlic, pitted olives, capers, chilli and oregano and stir. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add some more olive oil of your own so it can be stirred with ease. The consistency should be that of a loose paste.
3. Add the tomatoes and crush with a potato masher so ensure all the juice of the whole tomatoes is extracted. Because it's a quick recipe they won't be cooking for long. Stir again and crack some pepper in the sauce. Bring to boil and once its boiled turn down to simmer for 15 minutes.
4. While sauce is cooking boil enough water in a kettle to fill a large pot - you might have to boil it in batches. This ensures the water is already boiled when it goes into the pot so its nice and quick.
5. Salt the boiling water and add the pasta when you have 5 or so minutes on the sauce left. Cook pasta for directed time on the packet.
6. Once pasta is al dente (because its a thin pasta, it will continue to cook in the sauce - don't overcook it or it will go mushy) drain it in a colander and mix through some olive oil. Add the pasta to the saucepan and coat it in the sauce.
7. The anchovies should have seasoned the sauce enough but if you feel it might need some extra salt, season to taste.
8. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan.