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Slattern's Spaghetti

by . Featured in KITCHEN
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Introduction

My version of pasta alla puttanesca has had a slight name change. And yes, I realise that it’s not really necessary to translate the title, as this store cupboard standby of pasta with anchovies, olives, capers, garlic, chilli flakes and tinned tomatoes is widely enough known, but humour me: Slattern’s Spaghetti it now is!

Although you will often see its Italian name explained as meaning “whore’s pasta” in English, the general consensus seems to be, however, that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of cans and jars. Whatever you call it, it is as flavoursome to eat as it is easy to cook. Do add more fire, in the form of chilli flakes if you wish, though I should warn that even if the first mouthful doesn't seem that hot, the fieriness builds up as you eat. And you can fiddle around with quantities as pleases you generally; vegetarians and vegans, for example, can just leave out the anchovies and maybe bump up the olives and capers a bit.

I recently had a twitter conversation with one Jim Hewitt (@jimbarleycorn) about the new name for this, and I gratefully end with this fabulous message of his: "On those days when my mum couldn't be bothered to brush her hair and cooked dinner using whatever was in the cupboard she would say: "Hush. I'm slatterning!" This is perfect for a slatterning day."

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

My version of pasta alla puttanesca has had a slight name change. And yes, I realise that it’s not really necessary to translate the title, as this store cupboard standby of pasta with anchovies, olives, capers, garlic, chilli flakes and tinned tomatoes is widely enough known, but humour me: Slattern’s Spaghetti it now is!

Although you will often see its Italian name explained as meaning “whore’s pasta” in English, the general consensus seems to be, however, that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of cans and jars. Whatever you call it, it is as flavoursome to eat as it is easy to cook. Do add more fire, in the form of chilli flakes if you wish, though I should warn that even if the first mouthful doesn't seem that hot, the fieriness builds up as you eat. And you can fiddle around with quantities as pleases you generally; vegetarians and vegans, for example, can just leave out the anchovies and maybe bump up the olives and capers a bit.

I recently had a twitter conversation with one Jim Hewitt (@jimbarleycorn) about the new name for this, and I gratefully end with this fabulous message of his: "On those days when my mum couldn't be bothered to brush her hair and cooked dinner using whatever was in the cupboard she would say: "Hush. I'm slatterning!" This is perfect for a slatterning day."

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Ingredients

Serves: 6 (or 4 if teenagers are present)

Metric Cups
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced, crushed or grated)
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 500 grams spaghetti
  • 1 x 400 grams can chopped tomatoes
  • 140 grams (drained weight) pitted black olives (chopped a bit) - I like the dry-packed ones
  • 2 tablespoons small capers (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (to serve - optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced, crushed or grated)
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 14 ounces can diced tomatoes
  • 1¼ cups (drained weight) pitted black olives (chopped a bit) - I like the dry-packed ones
  • 2 tablespoons small capers (rinsed and drained)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (to serve - optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)

Method

  1. Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.
  2. Pour the oil into a pan that can, for ease, take all the ingredients later; I use my wok-like stir-fry pan for this. Put over a gentle heat.
  3. Add the anchovies and cook for a minute or so, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon all the time, until the anchovies have almost “melted” into the oil. Then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook, stirring, for another minute.
  4. This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to packet instructions.
  5. Going back to the sauce, add the tomatoes, olives and capers and simmer fairly gently for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning.
  6. If you're using a wok-shaped pan or similar, you can use tongs or a pasta claw to lift the spaghetti straight into the sauce. Otherwise, just before the pasta is ready, remove a cup of cooking water, and reserve it. At any rate, mix the drained spaghetti and sauce together, adding a little reserved pasta water, as needed, to help everything emulsify. Scatter with chopped parsley, if there's some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.
  1. Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.
  2. Pour the oil into a pan that can, for ease, take all the ingredients later; I use my wok-like stir-fry pan for this. Put over a gentle heat.
  3. Add the anchovies and cook for a minute or so, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon all the time, until the anchovies have almost “melted” into the oil. Then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook, stirring, for another minute.
  4. This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to packet instructions.
  5. Going back to the sauce, add the tomatoes, olives and capers and simmer fairly gently for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning.
  6. If you're using a wok-shaped pan or similar, you can use tongs or a pasta claw to lift the spaghetti straight into the sauce. Otherwise, just before the pasta is ready, remove a cup of cooking water, and reserve it. At any rate, mix the drained spaghetti and sauce together, adding a little reserved pasta water, as needed, to help everything emulsify. Scatter with chopped parsley, if there's some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

Tell us what you think

What 20 Others have said

  • Excellent will definitely make it again, didn’t make any changes.

    Posted by Roach-40 on 29th August 2021
  • Making this for the 2nd week running, it's becoming a family favourite, and so easy to make, love it, many thanks!

    Posted by JaneMarieK on 25th August 2021
  • This recipe is precisely the reason I love hearing from you! Thanks as always, Nigella, for a delicious dinner choice and for an out-loud laugh in reading about it!

    Posted by sancarloscharlie on 10th August 2021
  • I just saw this on a rerun and made it for dinner, It was delicious I will definitely add this to my recipe book

    Posted by KayeB on 8th July 2021
  • Love this, made twice in one week! Very easy and very quick.

    Posted by ellephoebe on 3rd November 2018
  • I'm a lover of spaghetti and all things briny, so this is right up my alley! I always have everything needed on hand anyways , so this is great for nights I didn't plan anything! I threw in a can of artichoke hearts (chopped) and it was delicious!

    Posted by Melliej on 8th June 2017
  • I love this store cupboard meal as I always have the ingredients. We had a canal boat for a few years and it was one of the meals I made on each trip for the friends we had on board, easy and impressively tasty - just how I like my recipes. I love Nigella's recipes and love to watch her cook.

    Posted by DJWinks on 12th August 2016
  • It was delicious! I made a Slut's Spaghetti with my own personal salacious touch incorporating lime juice, sun dried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, parmesan and arugola... which worked out percectly! ;-) I also added alot of dried chilli peppers as I like it hot!

    Posted by Charleston on 23rd July 2016
  • I am going to try and thank you

    Posted by Parmjit on 7th April 2016
  • I had a vegan friend over for dinner, and I made this omitting the non-vegan anchovies -- and it was terrific -- highly recommended!

    Posted by jclaireb on 9th November 2015
  • I do not like anchovies or black olives, but I like spicy things and I love Nigella so I thought I would try, so glad we did!! So easy to make yet such a robust, complex flavor, perfect. I adjusted recipe to roughly one cup black olives, 2 1/2 T of olive oil and 36 oz of diced tomatoes and extra 1/2T of japanese hot pepper spice, togarashii, along with 1/2 t of red pepper flakes. I am fantasizing about lunch already. Thanks Nigella for sharing and making be brave to try something out of my comfort zone!

    Posted by scarlettjean on 13th February 2014
  • This was downright sinfully earthy, robust, and briny. I used pitted assorted olives, not the kalamata olives as Nigella suggested one night, and then the pitted kalamata olives on another night. Family whole-heartedly agrees the pitted assorted olives gives more depth of flavor. Also added sundried tomatoes in olive oil and used the oil from the tin of anchovies for more flavor. I decided to grate the zest of a large lemon and add its juice to the sauce which balanced out the briny-ness and added some brightness to the dish. The small changes enhanced al already magnificent dish. This too will get a regular rotation at our home.

    Posted by Lipsticklibrarian on 3rd May 2013
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