Nigella has been teaching us about the pleasures of the table since her first book, How to Eat, hit the shelves in 1998. She has since published several best-selling cookery books, many complementing an accompanying television series, and has become known for her sensual descriptions of her dishes.
Nigella studied Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford, and went on to work as a publisher, becoming deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times. She then pursued a successful career as a freelance journalist, during which time her work was published in significant culinary and lifestyle magazines around the world.
Nigella was voted author of the year at the 2001 British Book Awards. In 2001 she was awarded – but turned down – an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen for services to journalism and cookery.
How could I resist this translation of ‘pasta alla puttanesca’, or ‘whore’s pasta’ as it’s usually described in English? The general consensus seems to be 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 jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 8 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced, crushed or grated
- ½ tsp crushed chilli flakes, or to taste
- 500g/1lb 2oz spaghetti
- 400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes
- 150g/5oz (drained weight) pitted black olives, chopped a bit
- 2 tbsp small capers, well drained and rinsed
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2–3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, to serve (optional)
- Put the water for the pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.
- Pour the oil into a wide, shallow frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the anchovies and cook for 2-3 minutes, pressing and pushing the anchovies with a wooden spoon, until they have almost ‘melted’.
- Add the garlic and chilli flakes and continue to cook for another minute, stirring well.
- This is the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to packet instructions.
- To finish the sauce, add the canned tomatoes, olives and capers and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time the sauce will have thickened slightly. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of the cooking water and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your pan, adding a little of the reserved pasta water if needed to help amalgamate the sauce.
- Scatter the pasta with chopped parsley (if using), and serve in a slatternly style.