Sicily’s Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera: The Anything-Goes Pasta Recipe

By Kanyi M

Traditionally, Carrettiera sauce is made by combining canned tomatoes, tuna in olive oil, and dried porcini mushrooms. It can be served alone with pasta or used as an ingredient for other recipes. Spaghetti alla Carrettiera isn’t a recipe. It’s a group of recipes with numerous variations. It came from the Carrettieri, who used up what was in their carts on the road at the dawn of the age of mass-produced food. Haven’t we all used up what’s in our pantry to make a meal for the kids?

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The recipe is convenient — pantry ingredients are transformed into a tasty pasta sauce. The Carrettieri utilized the tuna packed in oil and dried mushrooms that they had along with canned tomatoes, which they opened while on the road and cooked over low heat. Add some canned tuna, anchovies or sardines, capers, olives, raisins, and vegetables. It’s open to interpretation…and you can bet that the contents of their carts were different depending on what region of Italy they were in.
Those from Sicily used fresh tomatoes, while those from Rome used canned ones.

Maybe those from Genoa added pesto, or some from Milan used chard and potatoes. White wine, vinegar, and capers also found their way into the Carrettieri’s pasta sauce. Some used chickpeas, while others added pecorino cheese. The Carrettieri sauce was always delicious, no matter what ingredients were in the cart.

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We appreciate this meal for two reasons: It uses whatever ingredients are in the pantry, and it’s delicious.