CEiMB: Pasta Puttanesca

This week’s CEiMB recipe, Miso Glazed Cod, sounded delicious, and I LOVE cod, but alas, it was not on the menu this week. You see, we have very limited storage space here. This is the first place I’ve ever lived that doesn’t have a pantry. No pantry! Instead, we have two cabinets. Two little cabinets reserved for food storage. And over the course of the past few months they have been getting so full that we resorted to having a small stack of cans on the counter after every grocery trip. Just sitting there. On the counter. They would find their way into the cabinet (or our bellies) by the end of the week, but for several days each week, there they were.

Well, as Ryan will tell you, with an exasperative sigh, I’m sure, I cannot stand clutter. At all. Like, I can take it to a point, then I just go on these cleaning binges where everything I can get my hands on goes into a recycle box, donate tote, or garbage bag. These sprees almost always occur at midnight (or later), when all Ryan wants to do is go to bed. So you can imagine how the cans on the counter were bothering me, nagging me to the point of insanity, and you can also imagine how desperately Ryan was trying to avoid triggering an all-night de-clutter party. So we decided to forego the grocery shopping this week and eat only from what we already have instead.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s frustrating. I want to be one of those people who just whips up fabulous meals on a whim using only what I’ve already got, but I’m not. When I go to make our menu, I do so based on what sounds good to us at the time. We have a pretty diverse list of ingredients on-hand at all times so we rarely have to buy too much for any one recipe, but to be honest, I don’t really flinch at buying a few new things for each dinner. The thrifty side of me is overrun by the side of me that loves food and cooking which means we hit the grocery store almost every single week – even if only for a few staples. In fact, we both really enjoy spending the day wandering around our local market or, even better, the fancy, world markets in the area. To miss out on grocery shopping for an entire week is unheard of in this family! But, we’re struggling through it. Without our Miso Glazed Cod.

Instead this week, we had Pasta Puttanesca. And here’s why: we already had all of the ingredients. Everything about this recipe sounded good to me, and it got really good reviews from the CEiMBers who made it just a few weeks ago. Spicy, salty, tomatoey – what’s not to look forward to?? The one teensy tiny little thing I was really scared over was the anchovy paste. I have worked with the squirtable fish gunk before, and it scarred me for life. I’m not sure I will ever be able to use anchovy paste in a recipe again. I wasn’t scared at all the first time I bought it to use in a pad thai recipe. To this day, I will still agree that the flavor was spot on. The problem is the actual paste itself. It’s like brown, grainy, stinky toothpaste. Basically, it was the opposite of appetizing. After a little internet search, I decided to use fish sauce instead, and then I saw that Joann at Apple Crumbles used the fish sauce with good results so I was feeling even better about the decision.

Final result? Not impressed, but it could be my fault. I wasn’t reading the directions carefully, and I had it in my head that the recipe called for 2 cans of tomatoes. I dumped one can in, freaked out because I didn’t have a second can, then added a carton of Trader Joe’s tomato sauce. One second after doing that, it dawned on me that perhaps I only needed one can of tomatoes (thus explaining why I only had one). Since the sauce was in essence doubled, I doubled the other ingredients as well, but it still just tasted all bland. I didn’t get the real punch of salt or spice that I was hoping for. I’m not sure this is one we’ll be making again though I am curious to see what it would be like if I had followed the recipe.

Is there an ingredient that you just really hate to cook with because of its ick factor?

Pasta Puttanesca
16 ounces whole-wheat linguine
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pitted chopped black olives
1/4 cup capers
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the olives, capers, fish sauce, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Serve with grated cheese.

Source: Ellie Krieger’s “The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life”, p. 158


April 1, 2010. recipes.


  1. Brianne replied:

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the puttanesca; the picture is gorgeous! I didn’t have much luck with this week’s cod dish, either. Oh, well, there’s always next week, right?

    I loved when you talked about how much you look forward to grocery shopping, because I’m the same way! Sometimes I have my kids with me, which totally rains on my parade; I could spend all day looking at food in stores. I love stealing away and shopping on my own.

    Oh, and the one thing that grosses me out so much that I can’t even touch it, let alone cook with it, is mayonnaise. Hate the stuff.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Elina replied:

    Hmm, I had to skip this one a few weeks ago too and keep thinking about it. I never bought the anchovy paste; otherwise the appealing part of this recipe was that you really can just make it from pantry staples (except for arugula) so I keep keeping it in the back of my mind. So you didn’t love it; maybe I need to take it off the list.
    PS – I don’t think any one ingredient grosses me out. :)

  3. Elina replied:

    Oh and we LOVED the cod. Maybe you can make it next week :)

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