I was trying to use up some miscellaneous produce and other refrigerated odds and ends when a light bulb went on in my head. The tuna base is adapted from a recipe in Biba Caggiano's "Italy al Dente," Spaghetti with Spicy White Tuna Sauce, that I've made dozens of times over the last few years. Why I never before noticed the overlaps between its building blocks and those of pasta puttanesca is a mystery to me. A quick note: If you're going to add the white beans, do so at the very end of cooking, just long enough to heat through. You don't want the sauce to thicken more than it already is, nor do you want the beans to get overly mushy. —Chris Hagan
small onion, small dice
fennel bulb, cored, small dice
red pepper flakes (seeded chopped jalapeño or fresno chile would work, too)
anchovy fillets, minced
garlic cloves, minced
canned tuna in oil, drained and chopped
dry white wine
parsley, finely chopped
diced tomatoes, drained
pitted black olives (such as Gaeta or Kalamata), rough chop
Heat the olive oil and the butter over medium-medium high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion and fennel and cook 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add pepper flakes, anchovies, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the anchovies dissolve. Stir in the tuna.
Increase the heat and add the wine and cook until almost all reduced. Stir in the parsley and the tomatoes and return to a simmer.
Add the olives and capers and simmer about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (If you're using the white beans, add them in the last minute or so of cooking, just long enough to heat through.) Serve with pasta of your choosing, though it's particularly delicious over spaghetti squash.