Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta puttanesca, a flavorful and spicy sauce packed with capers, olives, and tuna. This sauce comes together with pantry ingredients. 

The past week has been pretty fantastic.  This weekend, a few of my sorority sisters and I threw a tailgate shower for one of our best friends, which was such a fun reunion!  Then Monday,  I was off work for Columbus day, my favorite random federal holiday.  I love celebrating the guy who may or may not have rediscovered America for the simple fact that no one ever does anything to celebrate, so it means an entire day to catch up on the always growing to-do list.  Then this Sunday was the highlight, the day I’ve been waiting for since April – The Walking Dead season premiere!

Y’all, I am so hooked on this show.  As unrealistic as a zombie apocalypse may be, each episode is so terrifying I still get the urge to board up our windows and stock up on MREs!  The characters are some of the most complex and well written on tv.  Also, Rick Grimes is a

total hottie


In honor of Walking Dead Week (like

Shark Week

, but better), I am sharing a delicious meal made of all shelf stable ingredients.  Yes, my plan for surviving the zombie apocalypse is to make meals from canned foods so delicious, the group will stick together to protect me just like they did Carl and Sophia...oh wait.

In all seriousness, there are reasons people other than doomsday preppers should know how to make a few healthy meals with shelf stable ingredients.  Maybe you enjoy camping?  When we were in


, the food was so horrid I would have killed to have one of my homecooked meals.  What if there is some kind of natural disaster?  You'll find yourself getting sick of MREs pretty fast.  But most likely, you'll need them for those days you procrastinate on going to the grocery store.

Normally, I follow the rule of thumb "if it goes bad, it's good for you and if it doesn't go bad, it's bad for you," but lets get real here for a second.  When fresh food is starting to dwindle, what do most people do?  They order Chinese takeout or a pizza or gasp, go through the drive-through.

Although this meal is admittedly low in the fresh veg department, it's packed with canned goods that are actually good for you.  If you're not busy trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, serve this with a nice arugula salad or throw chopped, fresh spinach into the sauce.

Vegetable juice:  The secret ingredient!  I recommend eating whole vegetables versus drinking vegetable juice, but in this recipe, it lends a slow-cooked flavor and silky smooth texture.  Plus, it's an easy way to sneak in nutrients from a variety of veggies.  Look for vegetable juice that isn't made from concentrate and make sure it says low sodium.  Some brands can have 400-500 mg of sodium in an 8 ounce serving - in a recipe like this which calls for other salty ingredients, that would be a stroke waiting to happen.

Olives & olive oil: A staple of one of the only diets I recommend, the incredibly healthy and delicious Mediterranean diet.  It's worth spending a little extra on oil or brine cured olives.  Other olives are cured with lye (and they taste like salty dirt).  If you're living in Zombieland, you'll appreciate the little luxury.  There are so many health promoting compounds in olives, it's hard to know where to start.  Most of the fat in olive oil is healthy monounsaturated fat, which lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and may even lower blood pressure as well.  Olives and olive oil are a rich source of antioxidants - vitamin E, anthocyanins and oleuropein, a nutrient found only in olives, just to name a few.  Research has linked olives to cancer prevention, especially breast and stomach cancer.

Anchovies: Gross, right?  While you couldn't pay me enough to eat plain anchovies, when mixed into dishes, it adds a briny, nutty flavor.  Anchovies are a sustainable source of omega 3 fats.  Since they are small fish, anchovies contain very little environmental contaminants.  At the risk of grossing you out, when you eat an anchovy, you're also eating tiny bones (don't think about it!), which means they are a rich source of bone building nutrients like calcium and magnesium.  Soak them in water for 30 minutes to get rid of some extra salt.

Tuna: Troll caught Pacific skipjack tuna is also a sustainable choice and is lower in mercury content than albacore tuna, as it is a smaller fish.  Tuna is a rich source of selenium, with one 4 ounce serving containing 75% daily value for selenium.  It is also a rich source of B-vitamins.

I'll conclude this post with useless, but interesting bit of food history.  Pasta puttanesca translates to “pasta in the style of the whore," in Italian.  Supposedly, pasta puttanesca was a favorite of Italian ladies of the night because it came together quickly, as to not interrupt, umm, services, but also the rich smell lured in customers.  Can't make this stuff up.

Pasta Puttanesca


Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE


6 to 8

Adapted from The Last Minute Party Girl


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 anchovy filets, rinsed
  • 24 ounces low sodium vegetable juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers,rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup olives, chopped
  • 1 6-ounce can tuna in water, drained
  • 1 lb cooked 100% whole grain pasta


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.Add anchovy filets and crushed pepper flakes and cook, breaking apart with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable juice and bring to a boil. Add olives and capers. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in tuna and heat for a few minutes. Season with black pepper.
  4. Serve over cooked pasta.