Do you know the rather colorful story about Pasta Puttanesca?
The story goes that (ahem) ladies of the evening would make a large dish of this highly aromatic pasta and put it in the window or doorway to lure their gentlemen customers in to their (ahem) establishments.
Now I’m not sure how true this is… do ladies of the evening have time to run to the kitchen to whip up a batch of pasta between “clients”?
With this delicious pasta, they probably do. In the time it takes you to boil a pot of water and cook the pasta, you can put together this simple but HIGHLY flavorful dish.
Some of the ingredients might seem a bit funky on their own but when combined they do some pretty amazing, tasty things.
Here’s what you need:
Diced tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Onion, Garlic, Anchovies, Calamata Olives, Capers, Olive Oil, Parsley (optional), Red Pepper Flakes, Sugar (not pictured) and Spaghetti.
(I usually try to clear the decks before I start taking ingredient pictures but tonight you also get a stack of cookbooks, blue baseball hat, and ample glass of red wine. All are optional – except the red wine for the cook.)
Let’s start chopping. Finely chop half a large onion – about 1 cup.
Mince or finely chop some garlic — 5 or 6 big cloves. No that is not a typo. 5 or 6 cloves. It will mellow out as it cooks and be delicious.
Anchovies! The key ingredient to Puttanesca sauce. If you made Caesar Salad a few weeks ago, you’re already familiar with how good anchovies are IN things even if they’re a little creepy by themselves.
Take the anchovies (8-10 fillets – one small tin) out of their oil and give them a rough chop.
This is another time where I think you might need to have a little faith. Trust me when I tell you that this sauce will not taste or smell like weird little fishies.
Grab a large pan and add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the COLD pan.
Add the chopped anchovies, minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the oil. Turn the heat on medium high and heat the oil and ingredients together. This infuses the oil with the aromatic ingredients while allowing them to heat up slowly together so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Stir the garlic and pepper flakes into the oil as they heat up. Try to smash the anchovies a bit with the back of a wooden spoon to break them up into the oil.
When the oil starts to fizz and sizzle (this only takes a minute or so), add the chopped onion to the pan.
Cook the onions for 5 minutes or until soft and golden but not browned. Add 1 (28 ounce) can of diced tomatoes and their juices to the pan.
Cook the tomatoes in the sauce over medium heat for about 10 minutes. If you find that your sauce is drying up, put a lid on the pan while the tomatoes cook.
Season the tomatoes with 1 Tablespoon of sugar. This helps cut the acidity and also mellow out some of the other more robust flavors.
While the tomatoes cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. I like spaghetti for this dish, any long pasta will do the trick.
Roughly chop 1 cup of pitted Calamata olives. No need to chop these too small. We want recognizable and taste-able pieces of olive in the sauce.
Add the chopped olives and about 2 Tablespoons of small, drained capers to the sauce.
We’ve used capers a couple of time before here at Idiot’s Kitchen. They’re those little green, briney buds of the caper berry. You’ll find them near the pickles and the Calamata Olives in the store. They add a nice little bite of flavor.
Add 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste to bring all the juices of the sauce together.
When the pasta has cooked to al dente – about 8 minutes – drain and spoon the pasta directly into the Puttanesca Sauce.
Toss the pasta in the sauce. If you need a little more liquid to combine everything, add just a bit of the starchy pasta cooking water as you toss.
Garnish the top with a little chopped parsley if you like. As you can see, I got right to eating and forgot the garnish.
This is a quick, easy, and affordable weeknight meal since all of the ingredients are pantry items that you can easily buy ahead and keep on hand.
I kind of like the idea of those hard working ladies making themselves something so delicious.
Once you make Pasta Puttanesca, I think you’ll be hooked.
Here’s the recipe: