My take on spaghetti alla puttanesca is a little different – I prefer tinned sardines to the more traditional anchovies, and I like to add some of the preserved oil for a distinctive flavour. This dish is a hot, fast joyride for your tastebuds with its fiery chilli, soft chunks of fish, vinegary capers and salty aftertaste.

(Serves 2)
4 fat cloves of garlic, peeled
1 fresh red chilli, chopped
2 tbsp oil
400g chopped tomatoes
100g tinned sardines in oil
200g dried spaghetti
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp olives, pitted and diced

Roughly chop the garlic – I like mine chunky in a dish like this, but if a mouthful of slightly crunchy garlic will put you off, chop it finely. Put it into a large saucepan with the chilli and oil and saute on a low heat for a few minutes.

Pour over the chopped tomatoes and the oil from the sardines, and turn up the heat to bring it to the boil.

Carefully remove the bones from the sardines by splitting them, belly and back, with a small, sharp knife. Use the tip of the knife to pick out the large bone in the middle and any others that are visible. Break the sardines into chunks and stir into the sauce. Simmer and let it thicken.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions and transfer it to the sauce for the last minute or two to finish and coat.

Divide between two bowls and top with the capers, olives and a pinch of salt.

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Facebook:

First published in The Guardian, April 2014. Photography by Graeme Robertson.


  1. if you don’t use anchovies, and that is your choice, don’t call it puttanesca. It isn’t.

    It’s spaghetti with sardines.

    But f you are using canned sardines, why bother taking out the bones? They are good for you. We thought you were the one with the slight cost obsession. You are throwing away free calcium.

  2. A easy dish. No need to have take away meals if you have the easy ingredients in your kitchen.

  3. thelyniezian if its for three you could just add half again to each of the quantities and where you have an odd half a tin of something left, like the tomatoes, use them in something else in the next couple of days after. or just make for four and have leftover for lunch next day…

  4. This has become my absolute fave of Jack’s recipes and we have it almost weekly now. My mum loves pasta, so I am going to cook this for her on Mother’s day as I have been wanting to introduce her to it for a while! Thank you for a new favourite meal, Jack, that is also cheap enough to indulge in regularly!

  5. I have just made this and I’m feeling epic! OK, it’s not a difficult dish to make, but I don’t cook, so I still approached it with some trepidation. I’ve never bought capers and chilli flakes before! Anyway, the meal was delicious, so thank you for the recipe from the 120 Meals collection which I got today. As you said in the book, Jack, feel free to adapt, so I might use mackerel instead of sardines next time.

  6. Really enjoyed this dish after coming home tired from work, easy and fast to make and full of flavor! Used a mix of passata and tomatos that needed to be used up.

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