Photos and Words by Julianna Flamio
Cravings. They happen quite often in college – usually after 2am or on any given day when the items in my fridge are on the verge of spoiling. This week I found myself craving a simple, tasty dish that I grew up on: pasta puttanesca. Whenever my parents have limited time to cook dinner they usually resort to pasta puttanesca. Most of the ingredients are staples in an Italian-American pantry: canned tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. I know, anchovies? capers? Sounds kinda gross. However, the anchovies melt into the pureed tomatoes and the salty capers enhance the sauce’s Mediterranean flavors. What makes pasta puttanesca so intriguing is its scandalous history. Puttanesca is an adjective for puttana, which means whore in Italian. As explained in the introduction to Rachael Ray’s pasta puttanesca recipe, “this sauce is named for ladies of the night. They would place pots of it in their windows to tempt men into the bordellos.”
Now that your head is completely in the gutter, I’d like to also mention that pasta puttanesca is quite cheap. I spent $15.44 on the ingredients (excluding olive oil, salt, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and grated parmesan). The dish goes a long way because my below recipe yields enough for next-day leftovers. I also stored the other half of the tomato puree in the fridge to use for another pasta night. You can make this dish with virtually any pasta. I prefer ziti, rigatoni or rotini. The Cooking Channel’s Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar (from the show, Extra Virgin) cook down ripe tomatoes for their sauce and toss it with spaghetti. No matter the pasta or tomato, puttanesca sauce always has the flavorful trinity of olives, capers and anchovies.
Family Recipe: Puttanesca sauce
Prep time: approximately 10 minutes
Cooking time: approximately 20 minutes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 28 oz can of tomato puree (I used Cento)
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn
1/2 can of anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
2 tablespoons of capers
2 tablespoons of imported pitted olives, chopped (I used green Sicilian olives)
2 cups of pasta (I used Barilla Plus Rotini Multigrain Pasta)
Crushed red pepper flakes
Grated parmesan cheese
- Mince the cloves of garlic
- Chop the anchovies, olives and basil leaves
- Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a deep pan or pot. Do not coat the entire bottom with oil.
- Add the minced garlic and saute. Do not burn the garlic.
- Add the tomato puree.
- Add the basil leaves, anchovies, capers and olives.
- Let the sauce simmer on low heat for approximately 20 minutes (avoid a rapid boil).
- As the sauce simmers, bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil.
- Add the uncooked pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente (about 10 minutes).
- Drain pasta and return to pot. Mix in the sauce and spoon out into a bowl.
- Garnish with crush red pepper flakes and grated parmesan cheese.