Sardine Puttanesca

Sardine puttanesca

Weekends are for taking a bit more time in the kitchen and sometimes taking time means making pasta. I have gotten into the habit of buying fresh pasta and so when I ran out but wanted to make a pasta dish with the tinned sardines I had in the cupboard and hadn’t gotten around to using, I had to make some fresh.

I manage to fit the process in between cleaning the house. Two cups of 00 flour scooped from the bag and emptied into a mound in the centre of a chopping board. A well forged in the middle and two eggs dropped into the centre. A whisk with a fork and then deftly (read hurriedly before it collapses and the egg runs everywhere) incorporate the flour into the egg. Once it starts to come together, hands go in and start to mix.

I inadvertently went to a pasta class when I was in Rome in 2019, but now seems like a million years ago. It was in Frascati where I was on a tour of a local vineyard. The tour guide asked if I wanted to join in the class the vineyard chef was running. He has just returned to Italy from France where he had worked for Emmanuel Macron, so of course I said yes. I joined a group of four retired American Mormon women and the thirty-year-old son of one of them whose free spirit and curiosity was completely out of place with the distinct jaded lack of curiosity exhibited by the women who wanted to get back to the States as soon as they could.

We each had our little pasta station at the dining table and Luca patiently and with some humour took us through the steps. When we started to knead our pasta dough, it didn’t seem to take too long to knead before the Luca said it was ready to rest. Since that trip, I’ve made pasta a handful of times and have never managed to recreate the lightness and elasticity from that lesson. So I continue to knead longer than I usually do. When the dough feels softer and more elastic than it has previously, I stop, wrap it in cling film and pop it in the fridge.

A dusting and vacuuming session. On Sunday mornings at 9am sharp, my neighbour vacuums her house from top to bottom. It has been my Sunday touchstone for the three years I have lived here. I imagine she has been doing it for decades. I seem to have slipped into a similar routine since lockdown. I am not so punctual, but at some point, during every weekend since lockdown began, I clean the house and vacuum from top to bottom.

Once the house is clean, I return to the pasta and roll and roll and roll listening to jazz and trying not to become impatient because it is taking a long time. I have resisted buying a pasta machine, but today it is very tempting to seriously reconsider. Once it is thin enough, I cut it into thick pappardelliesque strips. Puttanesca is traditionally served with spaghetti, but as this isn’t a traditional sauce, I didn’t stick with a traditional pasta choice.

While the pappardelle is drying, I get together the ingredients for the puttanesca. I used smoked sardines and green olives. If you use dried spaghetti, this is a good weeknight dinner dish as it can be on the table in 30 minutes.

Sardine puttanesca


1 tin cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 tin sardines

1 tbsp capers

2 tbsp olives (green or black)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of crushed chilli flakes (or more, according to your palate)


Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. Cook for one minute. Add the sardines and cook for a further minutes. Add the tomatoes, chilli, olives and capers and cook for fifteen minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for five minutes, drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Serve into two bowls and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.