Would you believe me if I told you have a recipe for a pasta in which everything except the pasta and the garlic comes from a can or a jar, and it's absolutely delicious?
Please don't flee. I promise it doesn't involve Campbell's soup.
I'm referring to pasta puttanesca, pasta with a happily pungent red sauce, made with canned tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, capers, and black olives, spiced with a dash of red chili flakes.
Despite its suggestive name, it's really more of an I've-got-nothing-in-the-fridge late supper than an I've-got-company-tonight dinner.* If chachouka is the dish you cook when you have almost nothing in the fridge, pasta puttanesca is what you make when you're down to the bare shelves. It's quite satisfying for pasta made from very little, and makes for a nice, relaxing meal when accompanied by a glass of red wine or two.
(Serves one, with leftovers.)
Open a bottle of red wine. Pour yourself a glass.
Put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. Mince a couple of garlic cloves (exact number determined by how much you like garlic) and add them to the pan. Open a tin of anchovies in olive oil. Once again, the exact number you add is determined by how much you like them. (I'd add the entire tin.) Stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up the anchovies as you do. When the mixture starts to smell good, add a dash of red chili flakes and a splash of the red wine you've been drinking. Top off your glass while you're at it.
Pour in a sixteen-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and stir the contents of the pan. Add a large handful of black olives (I like the flavor of the unpitted ones, but you can use pitted if you'd rather not have to stop to spit out the pits while you're eating) and a few teaspoons of capers in vinegar. Let the mixture reduce at a low simmer until it's nicely thick.
When the water has reached a rolling boil, add half a pound of short pasta - penne, rigatoni, whatever you have on hand. Cook until al dente, then toss with the sauce. Dish up a big plateful. Pour yourself another glass of red wine. Tuck in.
*The Neapolitan whores didn't serve this dish to their customers, they cooked it for themselves after the customers had left.