When I was living in Melbourne, I used to get acupuncture once a fortnight after work. I would look forward to this day for thirteen days before it – not because I was going to get stuck with needles, sucked with cups and given a revolting tea decoction by Marina, but because Simon Johnson Fine Foods was underneath her parlour of mini-pain. After every session, I would buy a 560g jar of his Puttanesca sauce, and bring it home to make the easiest dinner ever – boil and drain pasta, add jar, chilli and one tin of drained tuna, stir and heat, and serve with stacks of piquant pecorino. And despite being the least difficult of all meals to prepare, it was always the household favourite, even when young Lion came along (minus the chilli).

In Dubai, I have not found the equivalent. Sacla have a lovely arrabbiata, and Jamie Oliver’s rosemary sauce is not bad, but there is nothing that even comes close to Simon Johnson’s Puttanesca. But it’s no big deal, because it is fairly easy to make. Leave the tuna out if you like – traditionally, Puttanesca sauce does not contain it, but if you do, it’s best to keep the anchovies in for that touch of salty/fishy goodness.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 jar of passata (crushed tomatoes, about 400g)
  • 1 tin of tuna, drained (about 220g – optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped pimento olives
  • 1tbsp chopped capers
  • 2 anchovies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste
  • penne, or any pasta – about 300g
Instructions:
  1. Put water on to boil, adding pasta when boiling.
  2. soften onions and garlic in a pan over medium heat, then add all ingredients except tuna. simmer until pasta is cooked.
  3. When pasta is cooked, drain, then add tuna and pasta to the puttanesca base and stir through. Serve with grated pecorino or parmesan

Serves two people with leftovers for lunch, or 4 people as an entree. The sauce freezes very well, so you could easily double quantities and keep some for later. You can use tinned or fresh tomatoes instead of the passata, but fresh tomatoes should be given extra time to simmer down, especially if you do not peel them. The other alternative is to simply add olives, capers, chilli and tuna to a basic tomato pasta sauce – just cook in the pan for 3-4 minutes to help the flavours merge nicely. 


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