Pasta Puttanesca, or ‘Ho pasta as I now call it, is a dish I’ve heard and read about but never really attempted. Like most people I was put off by anchovies.
I’ve never eaten an anchovy. Why the aversion? I suppose it’s the name. The word anchovy alone is off-putting. If someone said Puttanesca sauce was made with Chilean sea bass, we’d be pulling supermarket sweeps across the country.
I am nothing if open-minded – So despite the anchovies, something I’d never tried, but found cringe inducing nonetheless, I gave Pasta Puttanesca a hearty try. By the way, I can’t say Pasta Puttanesca in one shot. It’s sort of embarrasing, really…
Much is said about the origins of Pasta Puttanesca. Its history is that of barrio legend. One such story speaks of prostitutes creating this dish out of pantry staples because they either did not have the time (for obvious reasons) or were not allowed to shop for fresh ingredients at public marketplaces (for obvious reasons).
The scent of the sauce would entice men off the streets and into their homes. Basically, out of mere practically “women of the night” were able to create this amazing sauce putting the phrase “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” in perspective. If you think about it, much is owed to the hookers of yore.
I for one am now grateful, feeling completely indebted to the prostitutes of back in them days.
If the word anchovy deters you in any way from making this sauce, I ask you put aside your pre-conceived notions and give it a chance. The anchovies are not tasted in this dish, but give the sauce a nice overall flavor, complementing the rest of the ingredients in a way that can only be described as perfect.
It’s totally nondescript and the only word that comes to mind is savory. The scent wafting through your kitchen as the onions, garlic and yes, anchovies are cooking is heavenly. I swear if I got any closer I would have burned off my nose. Glade ought to make a plugin called Puttanesca, make a killing and owe it all to me.
I have delusions of grandeur every so often. Sorry…
As mentioned, this sauce is made with pantry staples; onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies. For those who are wondering, anchovies can be found next to the tuna in your local neighborhood supermarket. Huge thanks to the Curvy Carrot for showing me where to look!
From start to finish this sauce takes about 20 minutes – And that includes the pasta; giving you a chance to move on to more pressing matters.
Such as, capturing your man’s heart with um, something other than food, perhaps?
Hey, when in Rome, right? 😉
P.S. For the record, I’ve read Pasta Puttanesca originated in Naples, but “when in Naples” just doesn’t have that ring to it. Sorry Naples, your pizza’s awesome, though!
Recipe: Pasta Puttanesca
Adapted From like 4 different sources, but the closest was: The Curvy Carrot
- 1 pound spaghetti, or linguine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium Vidalia onion diced
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 5-6 anchovy fillets (or the whole tin)
- 1 28 ounce cans plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped reserving the juice
- 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons capers; drained
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
- 1/2 cup Kalamata or black olives, pitted and chopped
- salt to taste
- Flat parsley leaves, for garnish
- Fill a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Cook the spaghetti until al dente, according to the package instructions.
- Drain in a colander and set aside. While the pasta is boiling, dice the onion and mince the garlic.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions, garlic, anchovy filets and red pepper flakes until the onions are translucent and slightly softened, about 5-6 minutes. Take a sniff, but don’t get too close – Cause you’ll get burned.
- Add the canned tomatoes with reserved juices, and the 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce, chopped olives, capers, basil and oregano.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.
- Once the sauce has cooked, add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the puttanesca sauce. Stir well to combine. Garnish with parsley leaves.
- Serve, enjoy and don’t forget to thank the ladies of the night.
Meal type: dinner
Culinary tradition: Italian
My rating: 5 stars: ★★★★★