My friend Valerie came over yesterday to do a hike and sit in the hot tub. She ended up staying for dinner so I had to come up with something suitable to serve from the ingredients on hand. I surveyed the fridge first and spied my roasted tomatoes from a couple of days ago. We had our first ingredient. Next I saw the ubiquitous bottle of capers that lives in all my refrigerators and thought ok, pasta. I had black olives, anchovy paste, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil and whole wheat pasta. We have a winner folks. Pasta Puttenesca.
Here is a definition from Wikipedia:
“Spaghetti alla puttanesca (literally “whore’s spaghetti” in Italian) is a spicy, tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish invented in the mid-20th century. The ingredients are typical of Southern Italian cuisine.
According to Annarita Cuomo, writer for Il Golfo, a newspaper serving the Italian islands of Ischia and Procida, sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot.
The moment of inspiration came, writes Cuomo, when near closing one evening, Petti found a group of hungry friends sitting at one of his tables. Petti was low on ingredients and told them he didn’t have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” or “make any kind of garbage,” they insisted. (In this usage, puttanata is a noun meaning something worthless or something easy to prepare even though it derives from the Italian word for whore, puttana.)
At the time, Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers; the basic ingredients for the sugo. “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo.
Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.”
I love this dish, and I love making it myself because then I can control how spicy it is and how much anchovy flavor it has. Val didn’t want too much anchovy but you have to add it, it just gives the dishes a really nice saltiness and you really can’t taste the anchovy at all so don’t be afraid and leave it out.
Here is how I made it last night:
About 2 cups roasted tomatoes (if you don’t have it 1 28oz can of stewed tomatoes will be fine)
1 jar pitted Kalamata olives or brined black olives
1-2 TBS capers
1 shallot thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
1-2tsp red pepper flakes
1tsp (or more) anchovy paste
1 large roasted garlic clove thinly sliced (I had this so I used it but if you don’t have just skip)
2-3TBS olive oil
1 Box spaghetti or Linguini-I used whole wheat linguini
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and chopped garlic. Saute for a few minutes until soft, don’t brown. Add the olives and red pepper flakes and saute for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes, anchovy paste, sliced roasted garlic and capers. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and let simmer while the pasta cooks.
Make your pasta to your liking and then drain and add the pasta directly to the sauce and toss to coat.
Serve with shaved slices of pecorino cheese. I used pecorino instead of parmesan because pecorino has more of a bite to it and I think it compliments the spicy pasta nicely.
I served a simple Vin Blanc with our dinner but a nice Barolo or Chianti would be great with this too.