Pasta alla Puttanesca

Well, now.  Here’s one of our favorite dishes, and I have the pleasure of mentioning that it came entirely out of my stocked pantry/fridge.  Yup.  Every bit of it.  Say what you will about my mental health (see previous post), but anytime you can whip up a batch of pasta alla puttanesca without a trip to the store, you know you’ve achieved a certain level of culinary brilliance. 

By now I think we all know the “history” of the puttanesca sauce, right?  No?  Oh, well the story goes that back in the day in Italy (not sure how far back), the “ladies of the night” would compete for customers by cooking up puttanesca sauce and setting it on their window sills so the aromas would waft out into the street, attracting, well, you know.  Anyway, the more aromatic your sauce, the more likely you would be to attract attention, but the better the flavor, the more likely to secure their return.  I’m not really sure that this ever actually occurred, but you know the power of the urban legend. 

I can attest to the power of the aromatics in this dish….anchovies, garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano.  Powerful stuff, but after simmering for a little while, the flavors combine to create this pungently flavorful sauce that is so addicting!  Spicy, earthy, salty, but lovely in a wicked sort of way.  Is that possible?

Yes, it looks innocent in that photo, folks, but caution is the better part of valor here.  This is powerful stuff, the stuff of legend!  Once you have succumbed to its power, you will return again and again....

Pasta alla Puttanesca

Printable Recipe

Serves 4

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

5 small anchovy fillets

1/2 cup dry-cured black olives (or kalamata), halved

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes

1 pound spaghetti

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

2 tablespoons small capers, drained

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Large handful Italian parsley, trimmed (about 1/3 cup minced)

Grated pecorino romano cheese

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and gently squeeze them with your hands until they are crushed and saucy.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic and saute until just golden, about 1 minute. Add the anchovy fillets and mash until they dissolve. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives to the sauce, plus a grinding of black pepper.

Simmer steadily for 7 minutes, then adjust seasonings (add salt or more red pepper, if necessary). While the sauce cooks, mince the parsley. Drain pasta and return it to its pot. Add the sauce and simmer over low heat, stirring for 1 minute, to incorporate. Stir most of the parsley into the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining parsley and grated cheese over the top.