Friday, April 6, 2012

Pasta Puttanesca

"It is not known whether the Italian ladies of the night (the puttane) who gave their name to this racy pasta sauce did so because they were short of time or cash or both.  In any case, puttanesca is quick and cheap and we hope it offends no one's memory to say so."* The version of this recipe (sorry, can't find the source), which I first made several years ago described the puttane leaving a crock with fresh tomatoes and other ingredients on a sunny window sill for several hours to let the flavors blend, and to make the sauce readily available. Since I first made this sauce based on this technique (sun verses stove simmer) I've always thought of Pasta Puttanesca as a sauce to make in the heat of summer when tomatoes are ripe on the vine. Earlier this winter when having dinner out I ordered, "Fettuccine 'alla Puttanesca' with Black Olives, Capers and Artichokes". While the execution was not that good, it made me think that this hearty dish would work equally well in the winter.


By habit, except for baked items (cakes, cookies, breads, etc.),  I usually cook by eye and taste. This blog has forced me to quantify amounts, which on many occasions I have found to be difficult and in many cases arbitrary as I tend to like food spicier than most.  Quantifying ingredients and quantities for Pasta Puttanesca is particularly difficult. The basic recipe  consists of garlic, diced onion, and anchovies first sauteed in olive oil and then mixed and simmered with chopped red chili, olives, capers, diced tomatoes, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  The variations in both ingredients and quantities are many.  Even the recipe (main dish) in the  The Silver Palate Cookbook  differs in both in ingredients and substantially in quantities from the recipe (appetizer) in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Needless to say other recipes vary even more.  The recipe that follows is a suggestion for a quick dinner; adjust quantities and ingredients to individual taste and ingredient availability.

Serves 2 as main course; scale accordingly

Boil in salted water according to package instructions :

8 oz pasta**

While pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet, saute until garlic is soft and slightly browned:

~1 T olive oil (heat first)
~2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
~1/2 c Kalamata olives, sliced
~1 T capers
Then add:

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen fire roasted)

Simmer until the tomatoes are heated through.

Serve over the hot pasta, garnished with:

Freshly grated Parmesean cheese


Add to the sautee mixture any/all to taste: dried red pepper flakes, finely chopped onion, anchovies

Add to the simmer mixture any/all to taste: chopped parsley, fresh or dried oregano


Mix together in a medium size bowl with cover:

~1 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped

Follow the instruction above for the simmer mixture, adding:

~4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped

Add the sauteed mixture to the tomatoes, stir well, cover and let sit in the warm sun for several hours, stirring occasionally.  Serve at room temperature over hot pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese


To the tomato mixture add either/both: ~1/4c parsley, finely chopped, 1 T fresh oregano leaves

* Page 72, The Silver Palate Cookbook (original version) preface to the recipe for Pasta Puttanesca.

February 2013: Quick after-ski version:  Use diced tomatoes plus 1/4 c (chunky) black olive tapenade.  Garlic optional.

**  May 2017: I find I am using less pasta and more sauce these days. 6 oz of pasta would be plenty for Ed and me. For more guidance see HOW MUCH PASTA TO COOK (bottom of post)

Reviewed 5/30/2017

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