Meditations

Puttanesca: Pasta For Whores


puttanesca2.jpg
Ben and I were honoured to be asked to co-host the Northern Voice blogging conference with our friends Boris Mann, Robert Scales and Jer Thorp. We made a killer salad, cooked delicious pasta, roasted veggies and salmon for over 150 people. Have you ever tried to par boil 15 bags of pasta before? Good fun.

The original plan was to make pastas like puttanesca “a la minute” on burners with lots of drama as we flipped our pans and made flames with booze. Unfortunately, our venue Heritage Hall didn’t want us to have open flame, so we decided to bake the pasta with cheese on top.

Puttanesca is one of the best and easiest recipes to make. For our event we swapped farfalle (the little bowtie pastas) for spaghetti to make it easier to serve and eat and swapped Italian sausage for the anchovies as some people dislike them. But it inspired me to post a good puttanesca recipe for those who want to give it a try.

The name has an interesting history. The story goes that “puttanesca” means “whore’s”, named in honour of the smarter prostitutes who’d make a version of this pasta, the aroma of which would draw more gentlemen visitors to their bordello. This recipe should really only take about thirty minutes from start to finish.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4):

2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 100g jar of anchovies in olive oil
1 can of tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
2 handfuls of stoned black olives (oil cured preferrably)
2 generous tablespoons of capers
1 good clove of garlic
1 fresh red or green chili
salt and pepper
parsley if you got it
spaghetti (or whatever pasta you prefer)

Oddly, many people don’t buy good pasta or know how to cook it right. Some simple rules are buy the best you can get – go to your local Italian neighbourhood for crying out loud. Get yourself a BIG pot and cook pasta in tons of water. Use only cold water and salt it as you bring to a boil. You can add olive oil to the water, but it would do much at all, regardless of what that chef on TV did. But go ahead and drizzle some oil on to the pasta and toss it when your done. And do NOT overcook it – especially if you are going to bake the pasta! I assume you know what al dente means, right? Nobody likes mushy pasta.

Put your water on to boil and get started with the sauce. Open the can of tomatoes, roughly chop your olives, garlic and capers. Heat a good sized puddle of olive oil in your saucepan and drop the anchovies on medium heat. Stir as the anchovies ‘melt’ into the oil and turn into a brownish oily liquor. Lower the heat as soon as all the fish has dissolved and add the capers, olives and garlic. Stir in the chopped chili and drop in the can of tomatoes and puree. Keep the sauces simmering on low and stir often, adding salt, ground pepper to taste at the finish.

When the pasta is almost done, but still chewy, drain and add it to the sauce, give it a stir and add a handful of parsley to finish it off. Another quick drizzle and a handful of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and you’re ready to eat! This pasta goes really well with fresh crusty bread, full bodied red wine, cigars and prostitutes of course.

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