Weeknight or date night, this recipe is the kind that you can always count on. Everything comes together in half an hour and it's made with very simple, budget friendly, pantry staple ingredients. Bursting with umami flavour coming from capers, olives, miso paste and tomatoes, this recipe does not compromise on taste for the sake of practicality. It's perfect for enjoying with the whole family on a weeknight, on your own while watching your favourite Netflix show or when cooking for a romantic date.
A huge fan of olives and pasta since childhood, when I first tried puttanesca as a kid, I fell in love. If it was on the menu, I'd order it without hesitation and would find joy calling the capers "frogs", because of their colour and texture, I suppose. Then, I read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket where the Baudelaire kids prepare this dish for Count Olaf which made me even more interested in this dish. So growing up, puttanesca was one of the first recipes I was interested in creating for myself.
However, to make it vegan was not my priority until I wanted to cook it for my fiancé, who is not amused by the idea of eating anything with anchovies in it. Hence, my attempt at making my childhood favourite without the anchovies. Even though I've been a pescatarian for about 6 years and enjoy the occasional fresh seafood -especially when I'm visiting Turkey in the summer- I find myself preferring and craving this vegan iteration of this pasta more than the original.
How to substitute anchovies in Puttanesca?
There are many ways to substitute anchovies in this recipe. I've seen some adding nori (dried seaweed) or umeboshi paste (pickled, fermented, ume plums). Adding nori does help with getting closer to that fishy, taste of the sea, kind of flavour but I honestly don't think it's an absolute necessity.
On the other hand, if you like experimenting with different ingredients -especially if you're vegan- I highly recommend you try and cook with umeboshi not just for this recipe but for a lot of other recipes that involve fish sauce or shrimp paste as well. If you're interested in learning more about umeboshi, you can click here to read a brief but informative article from Bon Appétit.
Another substitute is miso (fermented soybean) paste. For my recipe, I chose to use miso paste because I feel like it is the more accessible of all three but if you can't get your hands on some or simply don't like the taste of miso, you can leave it out completely. It will make a difference in the end result and overall flavour but you'll still end up with some delicious pasta.
Tips and Tricks:
If you're feeling extra exhausted and dirtying one more pot just feels too much, this recipe can easily be turned into a one pot recipe! Instead of boiling the pasta separately, you can merge steps 4 and 5 of the recipe and add the pasta directly into the sauce with some extra water. Even though this method is easier, you do have a slight risk of overcooking the pasta so if you want to get the most out of this recipe, I recommend the classic method.
The type of olives I used here were on the saltier side - salt cured Turkish olives - so I didn't use salt throughout the recipe except for salting the pasta water. If you use Kalamata olives or any less salty kind, make sure you taste your sauce and make the necessary adjustments.
Another ingredient that is important is the kind of miso paste you'll be using. While some are very salty, others can be milder. For most cases, we can say that the darker the miso, longer the fermentation period, and of course, bolder the taste. For this recipe, I used a lighter soy-barley miso paste which is on the milder side. Make sure you taste your miso before you decide how much you'd like to add.
Many Italians and chefs are very strict about the "no parmesan on seafood pasta" rule and I'm not here to counter that but if you're making this as a vegetarian, since there is no real anchovies that go in it, I recommend sprinkling some parmesan on top before serving. Parmesan is a great way to amp up that umami flavour!
PREP TIME: 5 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 30 MIN
4 tbsp of olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic
1 to 1½ tbsp of miso (soybean) paste
1 tsp of dried red chilli flakes
2 tbsp of capers
1/2 cup or 90 grams of pitted black olives
2 (14 oz or 400 grams) cans of San Marzano (or other) plum tomatoes
1 tsp of dried oregano
1/2 tsp of sugar
3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
450 grams or 1 lbs of linguine pasta
Two handfuls of parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
1. Fill a large pot with water, season the water with salt and bring to a boil.
2. In another large pot - or a sauté pan if you have one - heat up the olive oil (low-medium heat , you don't want the garlic and chilli flakes to burn) and add in the garlic, chilli flakes, olives, capers and miso paste. Sauté everything together for about 3 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, basil leaves, oregano and sugar to the sauce.
4. Add the pasta in the boiling water. Let both pasta and the sauce simmer, uncovered for about 8 minutes.
5. Remove the pasta while it's still al dente from the pot with using thongs and transfer it to the sauce pan. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce for about 3-4 minutes until it's done.
6. Serve immediately garnished it with some chopped parsley and enjoy!