Pasta puttanesca: An elegant dinner you can make with canned fish

Toilet paper may be in short supply, and yeast or flour almost impossible to find, but there’s still one item that supermarkets don’t seem to be running low on: canned fish.

Yes, canned fish. Tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring, even salmon and mackerel -- if it’s a fish and it can be shoved into a can, you can bet your bass it’s on the shelves at your local grocery store. Why, you’ve probably got a few cans stashed away in the cupboards at this very moment.

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And sure, you can eat it right out of the tin, but there’s an endless array of options for elevating this seemingly simple pantry staple.

“If you always keep a few tins of fish on hand, you can put a delicious meal on the table in no time,” writes Bart Van Olphen in “The Tinned Fish Cookbook,” a collection of more than 40 recipes made with canned fish.

Olphen got his start preparing fish dishes at a Michelin restaurant in Europe but later devoted his time to researching how tinned fish is caught, packaged and prepared.

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These days, Olphen says he’s “just as happy” to eat a meal he made with canned fish as opposed to fresh fish. And among his favorites is a big plate of pasta puttanesca, which not only utilizes canned tuna and a tin of anchovies but also olives and capers, which also just might be sitting in your pantry right now.

(David Loftus)

Pasta Puttanesca

Recipe courtesy of “The Tinned Fish Cookbook.” Serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • One 2-ounce tin of anchovies, drained
  • One 14-ounce can of peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2? cups penne (or any other kind of dried pasta)
  • 10 Taggiasca (or Nicoise) olives, pitted
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • Two 5-ounce tins of tuna in olive oil, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • ? bunch of basil, leaves only

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Directions:

  1. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the garlic and shallot for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the anchovy fillets and let them “melt” while stirring continuously, about 2?minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and vinegar and let the mixture simmer for 3 to 4?minutes with a lid on, then crush with a potato masher.
  3. Meanwhile, put a pan with plenty of salted water over medium-high heat and cook the penne according to the package directions.
  4. Add the olives and cherry tomatoes to the shallot-tomato mixture and gently simmer for a few minutes over low heat. Fold in the drained tuna, heat through for 2 minutes, and season with pepper and salt if needed.
  5. Once cooked, drain the penne in a colander and carefully stir the pasta through the tomato sauce. Divide the pasta puttanesca between two plates, drizzle with some olive oil, and serve garnished with basil.

"The Tinned Fish Cookbook" comes out May 26. The electronic version for the Kindle is currently available.

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