Friday, January 6, 2012

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

There are as many versions of Pasta alla Puttanesca as there are cooks who prepare it. It's one of those recipes that varies by region or family or availability. The basic ingredients can usually be found hanging around in any Southern Italian cook's pantry. Spaghetti is the most common pasta used in the dish, but you can use any pasta that you prefer. Tomatoes, capers, onions, anchovies, garlic, good olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes and olives, all have pretty bold personalities, but the beauty of this dish is that the flavors marry so well when they're combined, that none of them really overpowers the other.

What's in a name??  Well, if you want to get technical or have an overwhelming desire to know every possible thing there is to know about the foods you prepare, the name translates as....  OK, before you continue to scroll down the page, you might want to shoo away any kiddies who can read from your computer screen. Let's just say that it'll help you avoid any, ahem, uncomfortable questions. Just sayin'.

So, now that we're temporarily out of the G rated zone, the rough translation is "whore's style spaghetti".  Yep. That's basically what it means. Believe me, I wouldn't make that up. Not even if I was trying to attract sleazy old men, looking for a little somethin' somethin' on the interwebs, to my blog. (which, I assure you, I am NOT)  Anywhoooo.... On to the recipe for my version of this delicious pasta dish.

I just happened to have the following ingredients on hand. I would normally add capers and anchovy paste, but I was out of them. You can follow the traditional recipe, or you can throw caution to the wind and throw in a few of your favorite extras. It's up to you. (the fried peppers and onions, wine and balsamic were 1) easily on hand and 2) add a depth of flavor that you don't get from a quick cooking sauce)

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

  • 1 Lb Spaghetti
  • 1 28oz Can Diced Tomatoes, with juices
  • 1/4 C Dry White Wine (or Dry Vermouth)
  • 1/2 C Fried Bell Peppers & Onions
  • 3 Lg Clove Garlic, thickly sliced
  • 1/4 C Kalamata or Oil Cured Olives, chopped or sliced
  • 3 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbls Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Put the water on for your pasta while you prepare the sauce. Salt liberally when it comes to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions.

In a large skillet, saute the fried peppers and onions and garlic in a tablespoon of the olive oil.  (If using the anchovies, you would add these now too) Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes. Add your tomatoes, olives and balsamic vinegar. (If using capers, this is where you'd add those) Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

When the spaghetti is cooked and drained, add it to the pan with the sauce and drizzle in the remaining couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Toss together well over medium heat for another 3 or 4 minutes. Plate it up and serve with a green salad and some crusty bread. (I leave the crushed red pepper out of the sauce and let hubs put it on at the table. He happens to have an asbestos tongue. I do not.)

There really aren't a lot of calories in this sauce and you can use less olive oil if you want. I like to add it in to help the pasta and sauce combine more thoroughly. A little bit of reserved pasta cooking water will help to do that too.


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  1. On Martha Stewart's program this morning she did a Pasta Puttanessca and your recipe is very similar. She did use the capers and anchovies but also mentioned the anchovy paste. Yours looks very good and I have never made any version of this recipe. Your photo has my mouth watering so I will be making it very soon.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

    1. Hi Carolyn! Thanks so much for stopping by! I don't know how I missed the comments on this post, but somehow they slipped by me. I apologize for not replying sooner...

      I've seen Martha's version too and it looks delicious. I think most basic recipes for this pasta dish have the same basic ingredients, so it's a sure bet it will be a good choice when you find it on a restaurant menu or in a cookbook.

      If you make it, I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Hi Mary,

    I just now found your blog and will add it to my favorites.

    It's such a beautiful blog. And your puttensca looks delicious.

    Enjoy your weekend. :)

    Mary C.

    1. Hi Mary! Sorry I missed the comments on this post and didn't reply sooner. I swear I have blog gremlins! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by and for the sweet comment! Always lovely to meet another Mary! :~)


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