The only time it’s ok to judge something by its cover

Pasta puttanesca
I’m a sucker for nice packaging. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering I spent the first six years of my branding/advertising life focusing solely on packaging design.

A great piece of packaging tells a story. Contrary to the ethos of (business-minded) effective design, it is not always about being the most impactful or loudest item on shelf. Strong packaging design speaks for the ingredient/food in ways that the actual product cannot, conveying an alluring story on taste, heritage, origins, and values. So sometimes although the most elegantly subdued design on shelf may not win the race to the check-out aisle, it can single-mindedly draw the shopper into the world of the product. Great design leaves you wanting more. For some strange reason, I have always been fascinated by the retro designs of most anchovy tins. There is something so alluring about how these tins use typography and illustrations to proudly shout out to the world that they have not moved with the times. A nicely packaged anchovy tin imbues authenticity, signalling a sense of defiance to hold on to traditional methods of preparing exquisite ingredients, rather than relying on modern technology and mass production.

After spotting this little gem at a food bazaar, I was immediately transported to an idyllic seaside village, where local fishermen still went out to sea, returning with their daily catch to their wives who would prepare the anchovies with an old-age secret family recipe. True enough, after some research on the product, I found out that the Arroyabe brand of anchovy fillets are hand-packed in Spanish olive oil according to traditional methods, using carefully selected fish harvested off the Cantabrian Coast in the north of Spain.

What does one do with a gorgeous tin of anchovy fillets? A pasta puttanesca of course. Anchovies are the piece de reisistance in this pasta dish, adding a hint of rich tangy-ness to complement the combination of spicy chilli flakes, capers, olives, oregano, tomatoes and fresh parsley. This is one of my favourite pastas to cook as it is so easy to assemble (perfect after a long, crappy day at work). Not forgetting that a big plate of pasta is always ever-so comforting to overcome any work frustrations. So why not re-create your own idyllic seaside getaway. Pop open a cheeky bottle of white wine on a Thursday night, a hot pipping bowl of pasta puttanesca, put your feet up, leave the stress of work behind, and life feels the way it should be.

Pasta Puttanesca for one

The Ingredients
A handful of spaghetti (you can use any type of pasta, I used linguini that I had lying around my cupboard), can of tomatoes, chilli flakes, good quality anchovy fillets (for a serving for one I used 3 fillets), a teaspoon of capers, pitted black olives, dried oregano, chopped parsley, olive oil, chopped onion, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, and pepper. Oh and parmesan cheese, lots of it.

The Preparation
1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Save some of the pasta water.

2. Sautee garlic and onion with olive oil.
3. Add chopped anchovy fillet and cook for 3 – 5 minutes.
4. Add can of tomatoes and cook until sauce starts to simmer gently. Add chilli flakes, oregano, capers, and sliced black olives. Season with pepper. 
5. Add cooked pasta, if sauce is too dry add in some of the pasta water.
7. Add chopped parsley.
8. Serve with a generous handful of shaved parmesan cheese.


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