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March 26, 2024
This 15-Minute Pantry Puttanesca Is a Flavor Heavy Hitter

A delicious tuna pasta with Kalamata and Castelvetrano leading the charge.

Cooking is my job: I write about it, teach it, and do it all day long. Sometimes there is just no energy left by the time dinner comes along. I need a quick meal that is low on fuss and, most important, low on dishes. My go-to is a sort of puttanesca that uses canned tuna in place of the classic anchovies for extra protein and heft. (It’s loosely inspired by pasta al tonno, another Italian pasta dish that features tomatoes and tuna.) Besides slicing a few cloves of garlic, you’ll hardly even need to break out a cutting board—the rest of the ingredients are ready to go straight out of the package, making it the ultimate meal for a lazy night.

Puttanesca relies on heavy-hitting ingredients like salty olives and briny capers to bring big flavor without the need for hours of simmering. Oil-cured olives are traditional, but I use whatever is in my cupboard—Kalamata, Castelvetrano, or my current snacking obsession, Trader Joe’s grilled Chalkidiki olives, which are deliciously savory and a little smoky. It’s important to balance all of these salty components with a little bit of sweetness, so if your canned tomatoes are lacking, as most are, be sure to add a pinch of sugar.

This is a great time to use really nice tuna, or at least something a little fancier than you normally go for. My all-time favorite is the Ortiz Ventresca white tuna belly—it’s phenomenally smooth and velvety, but at nearly $20 per can, it’s best saved for special occasions. Tonnino and Natural Catch make two of my favorite more affordable (but still high-quality) tins of fish. Tinned sardines or even mussels make tasty, sustainable swaps for tuna. In any case, absolutely choose something packed in olive oil for the best flavor and texture.

This sauce essentially comes together in the time it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. Seriously, put on the water first, so the pasta will be ready at the same time. I may not be the first person to dream up this easy and delicious combo, but keeping a relaxed approach to the recipe means I get to enjoy a slightly different dish each time, making use of whatever olives or tinned fish I have at home. At the end of the day, I’m just grateful for a clean kitchen, more time to relax, and a big bowl of pasta.

RECIPE: 15-Minute Puttanesca with Tuna

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.