Imagine a cookbook with no recipes—hard to picture, isn’t it? But that’s exactly what the new New York Times Cooking book is: pages full of meals without measurements, exact timings, or specific guidelines. But really, some dishes that just lend themselves to this sort of cooking: breakfast scrambles, sandwiches, and even simple pasta dishes like this one.
Pasta puttanesca is a dish based on the original spaghetti alla puttanesca, which originated in Naples, and it’s a prime example of frugal Mediterranean cooking. This balanced and briny dish features an array of canned foods, which means it’s perfect to keep in your back pocket (and the back of your pantry) for those days when you really meant to go to the grocery store, but didn’t quite make it.
Use this “recipe” to guide you—check off the ingredient list and look to the method for advice, rather than concrete steps—even if that feels slightly outside your cooking comfort zone. With assertive flavors and ingredients like anchovies (an awesome sustainable fish), capers, and red pepper flakes—you’re better off tasting as you go, to adjust the ratios to fit your palate.