From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I hope some of you share my affliction. I have a habit of falling in love with certain dishes and making them so often that more temperate souls tire of them and pray they'll be put them to rest. I get all of that, save for the "put to rest" part. I've been making Puttanesca for better than 40 years now and have yet to tire of it. As a matter of fact, just thinking of it lightens my step. Granted, I love the heady favor of capers and olives and I have never been able to resist any form of noodle, but I think this sauce is really special. Before featuring the recipe for the first time, I did some research that dispelled a lot of notions about the origins of this Neapolitan favorite. Here is what I found and originally posted.
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.
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