A Delicious Quick & Easy Midweek Sauce for Spaghetti
Last night, my youngest daughter was at a meeting for young entrepreneurs, and my wife had to work late. My oldest daughter was preparing for her SATs with a tutor, and I knew she would be hungry when she finished. I didn't have anything planned, so I whipped up this simple tomato caper sauce to serve with a package of fresh spaghetti pasta left over from a dinner party this weekend.
I knew it was going to be good while I was preparing it. Garlic, shallots, plum tomatoes, olive oil, olives. How could it not be delicious when my youngest daughter and wife walked in the door and said, "Hey, what smells so good?"
I knew my caper tomato sauce was a keeper.
Pseudo Puttanesca Sauce
This recipe is very similar to one of my all-time favorite pasta sauces called Puttanesca, and I'm very surprised I don't have a recipe for it on my website, but I will remedy that soon. When I was single, I prepared pasta with Puttanesa sauce a lot.
I last prepared it a few years ago because my kids never like anchovies or hot pepper flakes. Today, they might enjoy those additional ingredients if I don't overdo the pepper flakes.
I used half a pound of fresh spaghetti, but dried would be fine; it just takes a little longer to cook. I also used a can of whole plum tomatoes, but diced tomatoes or a favorite jar of commercial marinara sauce would work, too.
Typically, I use a yellow onion, but we had a few giant shallots in the drawer, so we used one instead.
Olives - the recipe says 8 to 12 black olives, but I don't mean the canned Mission variety from California, although they would work in a pinch. I prefer you try something with a little more flavor, like Kalamata, Alfonsos, or Black Greek varieties.
In this dish, I used an assortment of black and green olives that I purchased and served as an appetizer from the weekend's dinner party. That could be what gave the sauce so much flavor.
Easy to Double Up
I made this dish for the two of us, but you could easily double up on the ingredient amounts so it can serve 4 with some leftover sauce. We also had some leftover garlic bread from the weekend that I threw into the oven to warm up, and it was a good accompaniment.
The photo above is not my photo and is not a photo of the dish I prepared last night. For some reason, I didn't break out my camera while making it.
I had to run, pick up my youngest from her event, and then get home to serve my oldest. I'll try to get better photos next time I make this.
Spaghetti with Tomato Caper Sauce
- ½ pound fresh pasta dried works well too
- 1 large shallot or two smaller ones, peeled and finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 - 12 black olives
- 14.5 ounce whole plum tomatoes peeled
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 4 tablespoons pasta water
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil finely chopped
- 3 sprigs fresh basil for plating and serving
- salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese freshly grated, for serving
- Start by bringing a large pot of salter water to a boil and then prep the ingredients.Fresh pasta cooks in just minutes. Dried pasta can take 8 to 10 minutes so adjust the cooking times with the sauce making accordingly. The sauce can be made and sit while the pasta cooks if necessary but try to time them so they are both ready to serve at the same time.
- Heat a sauce pot or fry pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and when hot, add the shallots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the olives, cook for a minute, stir and add the can of whole tomatoes with juice. Cover, lower heat and let this cook 5 minutes. Every once in a while, I like to uncover the sauce pot and break up the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. The longer they cook, the easier it is to break them apart.
- Add the chicken stock, adjust heat to a slow simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes. At this point, the tomatoes should be easy to break apart with a spoon.
- Season with a little salt & pepper.
- Add the capers, a few tablespoons of pasta water and then the basil. Stir and cook for a few more minutes until all the ingredients are hot.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper if needed.
- If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a little more chicken stock until you get the sauce to the desired consistency.
- Drain the pasta, transfer some to a couple of bowls, top with sauce and finish with a sprig of fresh basil as a garnish.
- Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese on top and serve.