Recently on Facebook, a brouhaha (of sorts) erupted because I posted a status update that said I was making Pasta Puttanesca. It’s a Stern family favorite, but lots of people were like “Putta-wha?” So I promised that when the dust settled in my kitchen, I would post the recipe. Then, I got hit with the Great Plague of 2008 and didn’t do it. Finally, so as not to be a scoundrel or a scaliwag (why does this dish bring this out in me?), I shall do as promised:
Background: Puttanesca is the Italian word for “prostitute”. It’s believed that the dish got it’s name because the ladies of the evening used to make the sauce and put it in the windows of their businesses. They understood that the way to a man’s heart is most certainly through…pasta. You can include many different kinds of meat, but the magic is in the sauce itself. It has such fragrant, vibrant ingredients and is really quite easy and inexpensive to make. Puttanesca is characterized by core ingredients of: anchovies (don’t be afraid of them – they melt into the background and they MAKE this sauce), capers, red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and olives. I love basil and artichokes, so I toss those in there as well. Make it for your beloved this week. Even if you hate pasta, it makes for an interesting dinner conversation!
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tin anchovy fillets or 1 Tbsp. anchovy paste (which is cheaper and stretches farther)
- 1/2 – 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 20 black olives, coarsely chopped
- 3 Tbsp. capers (oh, how I ADORE capers, but they’re only cost-effective at Costco)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (the non-poisoned kind)
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
- A healthy amount of cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
- Grated Parmesan
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil, garlic, anchovies, and crushed pepper. Saute mixture until anchovies melt into oil and completely dissolve and garlic is tender, about three minutes. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and basil. Now, stop and take note of the fragrance in your kitchen and you’ll understand why this sauce was such a moneymaker for those Puttanesca’s! Bring sauce to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 8-10 minutes. I also love to add about a cup of artichoke hearts and cooked italian sausage, but I’m not going to force my beliefs on you. Toss sauce with cooked pasta and throw some parmesan on top and you, my friend, are one sassypants kitchen hero!
P.S. Special note to Katie Arney: you did the research, now make the sauce! I’m expecting to hear that you made the sauce…then you can write a review on Wikipedia!