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Monday, August 21, 2006

Pasta Puttanesca: Recipe

pasta puttanesca
 It's not often that my other half requests pasta for dinner. If he did, we would probably eat pasta every day. Even the family I lived with in Italy was amazed at my appetite for it. Though we lived in Florence, we ate risotto and soup as a first course more frequently than pasta. While I love risotto and soup for that matter, I secretly wished I could be the cat down the way who got pasta and butter for dinner every night.

"Make something spicy, with red sauce and olives" he said. That settled it. Pasta Puttanesca for dinner. It's a dish that you make with pantry staples in minutes. Just like the prostitutes supposedly made, either because they had little time for shopping or cooking. Or because the sauce is "spicy" like they are. Or because the scent was supposed to attract their customers.

I find the scent justification for the name "puttanesca" or in the style of the whore, especially hard to believe, but hilarious just the same. Why would delicious pasta attract a customer to a prostitute? To a restaurant, maybe, or a chef, but not a prostitute. But so goes the mythology of this famous Napolitano dish.

The deliciousness of Pasta alla Puttanesca is enough to justify keeping tin of anchovies, jars of olives, capers and canned tomatoes on hand at all times. It's also easy enough to omit the anchovies and make it 100% vegetarian friendly. I like serving it with penne but spaghetti is more traditional. Use whichever pasta you like, just be sure to use a really good quality one that has a rough surface, sure to really hold onto the sauce. And it wouldn't hurt to save me some.

Pasta alla Puttanesca
makes enough for a pound of pasta


2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
3 anchovies (from a tin)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1 Tablespoon capers
1 - 2 pinches chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like)
1 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
optional: a few fresh bail leaves or oregano leaves


Mince the garlic finely. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and add the anchovies and garlic, stirring to break up the anchovies and keep the garlic from burning. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies melt. Roughly chop the olives and add them, the chili flakes and the drained capers to the pan. Stir and then add the tomatoes, crushing each one in your hand before adding it to the pan along with the juice. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Sauce should be thick and rich. Toss sauce with penne, spaghetti or bucatini over medium heat for a couple of minutes before serving to allow the pasta to absorb some sauce. Add torn basil leaves or oregano if desired. Note: This sauce doesn't require need salt or cheese, because of the salty flavors of anchovies, capers and olives.


Spaghetti alla puttanesca