Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pasta Puttanesca

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Ladies of the evening are credited with creating this pasta dish. While that makes the origins of the dish more interesting, there's not a lot to support the claim. Pasta Puttanesca did not become popular until the 1960's. A more likely truth can probably be found in the purses of frugal Italian housewives. The sauce is made with a handful of ingredients, many of them leftovers, and by using a bit of this and a bit of that, a filling and delicious pasta could be made for pennies. I'm not completely immune to kitchen fable and romance. My favorite story regarding the origins of the dish comes from the book "Top 100 Pasta Sauces" by Diane Seed who reported, "My introduction to this famous pasta dish occurred when I overheard two elderly priest discussing the pros and cons of spaghetti alla puttanesca ("whore's spaghetti") as they deliberated over the menu in a Neapolitan restaurant. Made of ingredients found in most Italian larders, this is also known as spaghetti all buona donna - the good woman's spaghetti - which can be misleading if one is not familiar with the ironic insult "figlio d'una buona donna" - son of a good woman." Now how does that explain how this particular sauce got its name? In the 1950's Italian brothels were state owned. Italian prostitutes were, for all intent and purposes, civil servants, but they were only allowed to shop once a week and could not shop with "good" Italian housewives. Their meals were made from odds and ends and tinned goods in the kitchens of the brothels. This sauce became one of their specialties. They did not create it, but they sure made it popular. When I was working and my ravenous teens could not wait for a "real" meal, this became one of my go-to suppers. I could have it on the table in 20 minutes and quell the revolution before it gained a foothold in my kitchen. I made this at least once a month back then and it is still a favorite of mine on days when the clock runs out before my schedule does. It's perfect for a Lenten Friday supper. Here's the recipe.

Pasta Puttanesca...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite


1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic

1 pound spaghetti

2 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

4 teaspoons minced anchovies (about eight fillets) or 1 heaping tablespoon anchovy paste

1 can (28-oz) diced tomatoes, drained, reserve ½ cup juice

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup black olives (kalamata) pitted and chopped coarse

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves and or basil


1) Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Meanwhile, mix garlic with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; set aside. When water is boiling, add salt and the pasta; stir to separate the noodles. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain then return pasta to pot. Add 1/4 cup reserved tomato juice and toss to coat.

2) While pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add garlic mixture, pepper flakes and anchovies to pan. Cook, stirring, frequently, until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 8 minutes.

3) Stir capers, olives, and parsley into the sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine, adding more tomato juice to moisten if necessary. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, sprinkle an additional tablespoon of olive oil over pasta before serving. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 5 servings.

You might also enjoy these recipes:

Capellini Capricciosi

Fusilli with Fennel, Sausage and Red Wine

Ravioli with Salmon and Vodka Cream Sauce

This recipe is being linked to:

Designs By Gollum - Foodie Friday

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