Puttanesca 3-in-1

From Adam …

The first time I made this, I knew it would become a staple in my repertoire.  For a healthy weeknight supper, it whips up in 15-20 minutes, in a single pan, using ingredients you already have.  Or, with the smallest twist, it transforms into an indulgent weekend feast.  Or switch it up once more, and it effortlessly wows the most sophisticated dinner guests.  Thus, the “3-in-1.”

My inspiration was the intense savory punch of Italian puttanesca sauce – tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, anchovies, and chili pepper.  Here, we replace the anchovies with that underutilized health food store staple, brewer’s yeast (aka “nutritional yeast”).  And we add heft and substance, transforming the sauce into a stew.  We also leave that carb-y pasta behind. 

Serves 3 or 4.  Freezes well.  Doubles and triples easily.

2 pounds high quality fresh tomatoes, or 1 28-32 oz can San Marzano tomatoes
2 Tbsp brewer’s yeast, more for vegetarian versions
1 medium red onion, diced 1½ pounds mixed protein, beans, vegetables (see suggestions below)
½ C pitted oil-cured black olives, coarse chopped  6-12 cloves garlic, coarse chopped
3 Tbsp small capers
salt, black pepper, and chili flakes to taste
¼ cup dried thyme (or 1/2 C fresh) Extra virgin olive oil as necessary or desired

Heat a deep, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat.  If your protein includes fatty meats like sausage or bacon, brown them now to release their oil.  If not, drizzle plenty of olive oil in the pan.

Add the onion and any other meats.  Sautee a few minutes, then add garlic.  Cook until garlic begins to soften.   Add the tomatoes (with juice), olives, capers, and thyme.  Bring to a simmer (turn page).

Add the protein and vegetables in stages.  For example, if you use carrots, add them first because they’re hard, and take longer to cook.  Add softer vegetables like celery or mushrooms at an in-between time.  Add things like spinach and scallops (delicate) or canned beans (already cooked) towards the end.

Serve as-is, alongside rice, or with whole grain sourdough garlic bread.

Weeknight “Real Life” Version: 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery stalk, 8 oz mushrooms, ½ pound chopped greens (frozen spinach is fine), 1 can chickpeas.  Also consider: frozen corn, tofu, and tempeh.

Fatty Indulgent Paleo Version: 12 oz pack Chorizo or Andouille sausage; ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Consider: butter beans, replacing thyme with a smaller amount of Berbere spice powder.

Impress-Your-Guests Version: combined 1½ pounds jumbo shrimp and scallops, 10 threads saffron.  Also consider: bits of lion’s mane or oyster mushrooms.  A vegan version, leave out the seafood and go heavier on those exotic mushrooms.  Sophie’s Choice makes vegan scallops that work here, too.

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