PUTTANESCA aka THE WHORE’S SAUCE. With a name like this you can only expect something spectacular. There are several metropolitan legends that try to explain the peculiar name. The one that makes more sense to me refers to prostitutes not having time or opportunity to shop and therefore making a quick sauce with ingredients available in the larder.
And ingredients are the key to the excitement. Good bronze drawn pasta, sun ripen tomatoes, tiny capers preserved in salt, anchovies packed in olive oil, sweet, firm, flavorful olives, fruity extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and parsley.
If you don’t have all the above please don’t be tempted to add cheese, tuna fish, mushrooms, roasted peppers, pancetta or other oddities. A good recipe is like a play, if one actor doesn’t know his part you can’t rescue it by having one someone who has learned a different role.
- 1 pound (500 grams) dried pasta
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, soaked in water and drained
- 5 oz (150 gr) Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 1 small dried red chile
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 (14 ounce/400gram) cans diced/crushed tomatoes
- 1 good handful fresh parsley finely chopped
The recipe is traditionally made with spaghetti and olives from Gaeta. Short pasta like penne or the beautiful tortiglioni in the picture is easy if you need to feed a crowd. Gaeta olives are probably not common outside Italy but Kalamata are a good substitute.
The inexpensive, pizza style, ubiquitously bland black olives are generally unripe green olives that have been dyed with iron salts (ferrous gluconate) after artificial ripening. Avoid.
Saute the garlic, capers, olives, anchovies, chili in 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for a couple of minutes. Mash the anchovies with the back of a wooden spoon and when they disappear add the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 10 min until slightly thickened.
If you are not fond of chili pepper you can omit it and serve some of my spicy oil to those who do.
Cook the pasta in plenty salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and transfer the pasta in the hot sauce. Stir quickly, add the fresh parsley and serve.
PS. please note that the anchovy in the photo is only a decoration, used to point out that is an important ingredient. The anchovy used in the sauce is melted and you cannot see it!