Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


This recipe is saucy, tangy, very flavorful, filling, and best of all it uses no meat (it does use fish, very small, overly salted fish).

This is our take on the traditional spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe, of which there are many different variations, including simply mixing all of the ingredients for the sauce without cooking them.

There are several noteworthy items about this recipe. First, the name puttanesca, which - rather unfortunately or otherwise making a great dinner conversation starter - comes from the Italian word "puttana" which means, to put it gently, a lady of the night. There are several versions as to how the sauce got such a colorful name. While it's debatable whether this recipe name has any actual connection to the Italian root, one version is tied to the Latin root of the word, the verb "puteo" which means to stink. This is not surprising, given that the ingredients - anchovies, capers, olives and garlic - when cooked together can emit a strong odor. It is also rumored that this smell would act as an attractant for hungry men in search of both a meal and female company. So make of that what you will, but the sauce is easy to make and the odor and flavor are both quite interesting.

The second noteworthy but perhaps less colorful item about this recipe involves one of the ingredients - the anchovies. Although some recipes recommend soaking them in water to desalt them, it is not necessary. The anchovies are very salty, but when used sparingly can add wonderful flavor (and salt) to the meal. For that reason the recipe for the sauce does not call for salt, as all the salt you need will come from the anchovies (I use a sprinkle of salt when cooking the pasta).


This recipe uses about 5 finely chopped anchovy fillets for about half a package of spaghetti (I may have used more in the actual dish I made). But you can always adjust to your own palate, just two or three fillets for that amount of pasta is enough for the flavor to come through without being too overwhelming.

This dish works well with the Insalata Caprese as an appetizer.

Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce
(Serves about 3)

You will need:
1/2 lb spaghetti
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
14.5 oz can organic unsalted diced tomatoes
1 tbsp capers
1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1. Bring water in a large pot to a boil. Add a sprinkle of salt and pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. The sauce should be made while the pasta is cooking. If pasta is ready before the sauce, toss the pasta with a little bit of olive oil to prevent it from sticking, then cover and let stand as you make the sauce.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the diced tomatoes and quickly bring to a simmer. Stir in capers, olives, anchovies and onion. Cook covered, until onions start to soften and the sauce becomes very fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and stir in basil and parsley. Lower the heat and add the pasta to the sauce in the pan, and toss well to coat. Remove from heat and serve.


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