You might have noticed a hiatus in my blog posting over the last few months. Without going into too much detail at this point, my body wasn’t taking no for an answer and the enforced rest was pretty much mandatory for a while! The good news is that I’m in full health, there is nothing to worry about, and I’m delighted to be back foraging, playing with new recipes, and making the most of this beautiful spring.
I love a slow, intricate recipe every now and then, taking time over every element in the kitchen and experimenting etc, but I just haven’t been in a position to do that lately. Quick, tasty recipes that can be put together without standing for too long at the stovetop have been keeping me going and this wild spaghetti sauce inspired by the delicious Italian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca has become a firm favourite. It is so full of umami and flavour from some simple, nutritious wild ingredients that I’ve preserved over the seasons and were therefore at my fingertips without having to do too much preparation. If you don’t have the same ingredients to hand, don’t worry – I will give alternatives in the recipe below that are actually much closer to an authentic Italian Puttanesca!
For each of the typical puttanesca ingredients of anchovies, olives, capers, and garlic, I’ve tried to make a replacement that echoes the flavour of the original but of course the result has its own unique character:
- Laver (nori) seaweed instead of anchovies: I’m not going to lie – I often use anchovies as well because I just love their flavour once it infuses with the olive oil in the pan. However, laver seaweed (related to Japanese nori seaweed) is a great alternative source of umami and is also full of great nutritional benefits as it contains packs of iodine, iron, and a host of vitamins too. Once gathered it’s best to toast it by brushing over a bit of oil and drying it out under a low grill. You can also dehydrate it in order to store it, and then toast it when you’re ready to use it in a recipe. Of course you can use nori sheets as an alternative if you don’t have laver seaweed as they are fairly widely available in supermarkets these days.
- Pickled wild garlic seeds instead of olives and capers: Once wild garlic has flowered, it produces little green bead-like seeds that have a lovely crunch and a real kick of garlic flavour. I follow this Wild Garlic Seed Capers recipe from The Salt Box which I love and they last really well in the fridge. You get all of the salt, sweetness, acidity, and funkiness of olives and capers from the pre-salting of the seeds and the vinegar they’re pickled in. It’s still a bit early in the season for these, but I’m trying to use up the jar I made last year (it has lasted all this time because you really don’t need to add many to a dish to get a huge hit their distinctive flavour).
- Wild garlic leaves instead of garlic cloves: I always have plenty of wild garlic in the freezer to cook with throughout the year. For this sauce I used wild garlic preserved in olive oil – see this post for more information about how I preserve wild garlic. Wild garlic is now in season too which makes this recipe perfect for the spring season – you just have to remember to add the chopped leaves to the sauce a bit later in cooking rather than at the beginning so that the flavour isn’t cooked off.
Wild “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca” Recipe
- 200g dried spaghetti
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6-8 anchovies (optional if using seaweed/nori)
- 250g tomato passata
- Handful toasted laver seaweed or Nori sheets (optional if using anchovies)
- Handful wild garlic leaves (or use 1 crushed garlic clove and see “Tips”)
- 1 tbsp pickled wild garlic seeds (or use 1 tbsp chopped olives and 1 tbsp chopped capers)
- Chilli flakes to taste (optional)
- Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions or depending on the type of pasta you’re using. If you usually add salt to the water and you’re using anchovies in this recipe, you may wish to use less for the pasta so that the end result isn’t too salty.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the chopped anchovies if using (also add crushed garlic at this point if using bulb garlic). Add the passata and cook for about 5 minutes to heat through and reduce slightly.
- Tear the laver seaweed or nori sheets and add to the sauce, along with the chopped wild garlic leaves, pickled wild garlic seeds, and chilli flakes if using.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and stir in the sauce. Serve immediately.
- Make the dish plant-based by excluding the anchovies and using the laver seaweed/nori.
- If using a crushed clove of garlic instead of wild garlic leaves, add this to the oil at the very beginning of cooking the sauce so it has plenty of time to infuse its flavour. Wild garlic leaves lose their flavour if they are cooked for too long which is why they are added later, but this is not the case for bulb garlic.
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