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.

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