Sometimes the best laid dinner plans go awry. For example, how often have you arrived home late after a busy day to find a scenario similar to the following? Junior was hungry and made an afternoon snack of last night’s leftover meatloaf, which you intended to serve for dinner tonight. The chicken you could have sworn you took out to defrost this morning is still in the freezer. Or your partner was supposed to pick up the beef needed for tonight’s planned cottage pie, but…oops! Now what?
In order to deal with such eventualities, I like to collect, and think up, quickly prepared recipes based on staple ingredients that I always keep on hand in the pantry, fridge, or garden, as in the following recipe. This pasta dish was inspired by the bold flavors of classic Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and uses jarred roasted red bell peppers, canned tomatoes, olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, dried red peppers, herbs, and dried pasta. It can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and, served with a salad, makes a lovely quick and easy meal.
12 ounces dried spaghetti, linguine, or other similar pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2-6 tinned anchovy fillets (I used 4), mashed
1 15-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers, very well drained
1 14.5-ounce can good quality tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup good quality pitted black olives, green olives, or a combination of the two
1/2 teaspoon or more dried, crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh, oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper and salt (if the latter is needed, which it probably won’t be; anchovies and capers are quite salty)
(Optional) Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- In a large stock post, bring 2 quarts of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente according to the package instructions, drain in a colander, and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, pour the drained roasted peppers and the juice from the canned tomatoes into a food processor or blender and pulse until the peppers are finely chopped but not pureed. Set aside. Separately chop the remaining canned tomatoes and set aside.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or deep frying pan until hot. Add the garlic and anchovies and stir for approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the reserved chopped tomatoes, capers, olives, sugar, dried red pepper, oregano, and a generous grinding or two of black pepper. Stirring continuously, sauté this mixture for about three minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the reserved roasted red pepper/tomato juice mixture and parsley or basil. Simmer for approximately four minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning, as needed.
- Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, heat for an additional minute, and transfer to a serving dish. Serves 3-4 as a main course or 6-8 as a side dish. If desired, serve with optional parmesan cheese at table.