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A Can of Tomatoes: Whore’s Spaghetti

Everyone has some kitchen cupboard staple that they depend upon heavily, and mine is the humble can of tomatoes. I generally have a big bag stored away under my stairs with about a dozen cans of tomatoes, ready to be used at short notice.  As part of an ongoing series here on, I will be sharing some of my can-of-tomato-based recipes; all of which are cheap and easy to make, as well as generally fairly nutritious.

Pasta Puttanesca (Spaghetti of Whores!)

A spicy and flavourful tomato pasta dish, that only requires a few ingredients.  This recipe will serve two, and it really goes with red wine.


  • One can of tomatoes
  • Tomato Puree – about two tablespoons
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • Black olives – about half a 200g jar
  • Anchovies – fresh or in oil
  • Capers (optional)
  • Dried chilli flakes – one teaspoon
  • Basil – one teaspoon
  • Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Sweat the onion in some olive oil over a low heat until soft
  2. Add the can of tomatoes and tomato puree
  3. Add about 4-5 anchovies and the black olives. I like to slice mine, but they could also be added whole for a chunkier sauce.  Also add capers if, unlike me, you like them.
  4. Add the basil, chilli and black pepper.
  5. Simmer the sauce on a low heat for at least half an hour.  The secret to getting tomato sauce really rich and flavourful is to cook it well.  It took me a while to realise this when I first learned to cook, which is why my early pasta dishes tasted like warmed up tins of tomatoes.
  6. Serve with spaghetti or linguine – any long pasta that will hold the sauce.

Buying Tips

Best value for cans of tomatoes: Lidl do good quality chopped or plum tomatoes for about 35c a can.

Small jars of anchovies can be picked up in Italian delis for about €2.50. One jar should last you quite a while; they’re much more economical than buying them in cans.

Pitted black olives in jars work really well for this sauce, and you can save any fancy olives for antipasto.  Lidl and Aldi are generally very good for picking up Italian ingredients.

One Comment

  1. adding a tbsp of sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes and makes a huge difference in all sauces.