Friday, January 22, 2016

Pasta puttanesca


As a longtime proponent of Meatless Monday, I'm often looking for interesting ways to serve meatless meals to my family. I make lots of bean- or veggie-based soups, egg dishes, salads and of course, pasta. I like to make my own pasta sauces sometimes, but I'm also perfectly happy to use prepared sauces, especially pesto, which can be hard to make from scratch in the off-season. When I do make a sauce, I like it to be simple and quick (obviously) but also fully-flavored, and that's why my homemade sauce is often made in the puttanesca style.

Have you eaten pasta puttanesca? It's one of my favorites. I had it for the first time in a tiny restaurant in Greenwich Village when I was 19 years old and it really stayed with me. The salty, spicy, tangy flavors are my favorite combination - it contains kalamata olives, capers, lots of garlic and a little bit of one special ingredient that I really want you to try if you haven't before - anchovy paste (a traditional puttanesca ingredient, the addition of which makes the sauce not quite meatless but pretty close). It's a thick, rustic-style sauce that I particularly love in wintertime.

Pasta puttanesca originated in the Campania region of Italy and is said to have a...salty background. The word puttanesca is derived from puttana, the Italian word for prostitute. As the story goes, the women would prepare simple pasta meals in between clients. Some say they would even put their fragrant sauce pots on the open windowsills to tempt men. Now, I know this isn't the kind of discussion you usually get 'round the old Thistlebear home, but this sauce is so tasty and easy to make that I think most of us can overlook its suspect origins.

You'll need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup capers in brine, drained
Spaghetti or other pasta



First, heat the oil in a medium saucepan with the garlic and crushed red pepper (you can use more or less red pepper, depending on your threshold for spiciness; I like to keep it relatively mild so the whole family can enjoy it). Cook over low heat until the garlic is slightly golden, then add the anchovy paste and stir it into the oil, cooking for another minute or two.


In case you aren't familiar with anchovy paste, here's mine. It comes in a small metal tube, usually packaged within a box. You may have to search a bit for it in the store; I've seen it near the canned fish sometimes, as well as near the imported and gourmet foods. It's a funny ingredient because it will smell a little fishy coming out of the tube but it doesn't taste fishy at all added to a recipe. It only tastes savory, nutty, salty...kind of mysterious. You can certainly use chopped anchovy fillets if you prefer, but I like anchovy paste. It's good for all kinds of recipes, very convenient, and a little goes a very long way. Now back to the sauce...


You can add the tomatoes to the pot once the anchovy paste has cooked a bit. While the tomatoes simmer, get the olives and capers ready. Sometimes I rinse the capers if they seem excessively salty in the jar, but usually I just drain them. I quarter the olives. I don't rinse them, though; I find that their brine enhances the flavors in the sauce.


Finally, stir the olives and capers into the tomatoes and let the sauce simmer a little longer, five minutes or so, to allow all the flavors to blend. You can add fresh herbs, or salt and pepper to taste, but I usually find the sauce to be plenty salty (if salt is a concern in your diet, you can certainly adapt the recipe, bearing in mind that olives and capers do tend to be high in sodium). Serve the sauce over hot cooked pasta with grated Parmesan. Mangia, ladies (and gents...tee hee).

44 comments:

  1. Looks good. I don't like anchovies, but the anchovy paste sounds interesting.

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  2. That looks delicious Jennifer. I have never cooked with anchovy paste before, but you certainly tempt me to try it with this rcipe. I enjoyed the story too. You are just chock full of interesting bits of information aren't you?
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  3. Snap, I made "Tart's Pasta" for dinner last night, I had a small tin of anchovy fillets and just ground them to a paste in the mortar and pestle. This is my stand by cheer me up on a miserable day recipe, and never fails. I had company for dinner and made so much that there is a pot in the fridge for my lunch, it is just as good cold.

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  4. This is a sauce I want to try to make...I have never used any form of anchovies in cooking, so this will be an adventure for me :) Thanks for sharing your recipe, Jennifer. xx

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  5. It looks delicious but we'd have to do it without the anchovies round here! Any form of pasta is usually a big winner with our family. Have a happy weekend. xx

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  6. It sounds wonderful, I bet it tastes really good with lots of depth of flavour. Sadly with anchovies and tomatoes in it is a no go for me :(

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  7. It looks so tasty. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully the Bear will be the only one peeping in your window ;-)

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  8. It looks so tasty. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully the Bear will be the only one peeping in your window ;-)

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  9. Looks good, something my eldest daughter would love but anchovies are not for me I am afraid.

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  10. This looks wonderful. I remember first making spaghetti alla puttanesca from Delia Smith's summer recipe book when I was pregnant with my son and I couldn't eat enough salty, spicy food. My other favourite anchovy recipe is when purple sprouting broccoli is in season at the allotment and I make a sauce with anchovies, garlic and chilli to serve with pasta, psb and plenty of Parmesan. I always use the little jars of whole anchovies and use any leftover on home made pizza.

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  11. This looks tasty, I'm going to give it a try. I just hope it doesn't bring all the guys knocking on the door ;)

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  12. OMG! That looks so good! I'm going to try it!

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  13. It looks delicious, I bet there were no leftovers.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  14. This is one of my favourite pasta sauces! I add chopped anchovies instead of anchovy paste. I didn't know this was available must look in the supermarket. Thanks for the tip. Have a lovely weekend. x

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  15. My husband made a fabulous putanesca .. Not too many anchovies because they were just so salty and not too spicy. I like that the taste is there , however you adjust the ingredients.

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  16. This is one dish I've never tried! Love olives and capers, but not anchovies. Though if I were to eat this dish with the paste in it, I know I would never know there was anchovy paste in it. Both my hubby and I have borderline hypertension though, so we have to watch our sodium intake.

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  17. Hey Jennifer,
    Would those ladies of the night mind that I omit the olives in mine? I make this sauce a lot, but I often pump it up with other veggies too. And not to lower the time even further, but when you mentioned the 'salty ingredient' I thought you were alluding to a different ingredient entirely.....
    Leanne xx

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    1. Hahahahahaha....you are so lucky I wasn't drinking anything when I read your comment. :)

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  18. This sounds delicious Jennifer! If I had the ingredients on hand I would make it for tonight's supper. Thanks for the recipe!

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  19. Thanks for sharing this Jennifer it sounds yummy. :) xx

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  20. That looks good! I do love me some pasta and rich red sauce. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I've never used anchovy paste but I bet it does imbue the sauce with a lot of extra flavor. Enjoy your weekend!! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  21. Ooooh yum (apart from the anchovy paste - sorry but bleurgh) and I am hungry now!

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  22. That looks and sounds wonderful Jennifer. I can't eat regular pasta, but just picked up some brown rice pasta to try and think you sauce would be perfect.

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  23. Wow! That sounds so yummy, I am definitely going to give it a go. Thank you so much for the recipe. xx

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  24. Delicious. I love sauces like this, and as I happen to have most of a jar of capers in the fridge I might give it a go next week but without the anchovy paste. I might rinse the capers as well, the children tried them and pronounced them "really strong" whatever that means. Anyway, they weren't popular, but hopefully they'll blend in better in a sauce. CJ xx

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  25. Oh this does sound delicious, and perfect for the times when the snow lies outside and you are warm and cosy within :)

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  26. It looks delicious, Jennifer! :o)

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  27. I often make this pasta sauce but without the anchovies. I really can't use them but my eldest son adores them x

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  28. Looks delicious ... I would also consider doing courgetti in place of pasta ... similar to this recipe here
    http://thelowcarbdiabetic.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/porcini-and-green-lentil-bolognese-with.html

    Hope your weekend has been a good one.

    All the best Jan

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  29. That sounds good to me - although I'm the only one who'd eat it in this house as nobody else likes olives or capers. Philistines.
    Rick Stein has a pasta recipe with chilli, anchovies and olives but no tomatoes. Much drier but still delicious.
    I'd like to try your Puttanesca, maybe when I'm dining alone or the boys are having something else. Same with paella, but it seems such an effort for one person!
    Sarah.

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  30. Looks divine my friend! I can just picture what it tastes like!!! Thank you for passing this one along! And I wanted to let you know that I was back to blogging….I missed the creative process from all of you so you will see me more regularly and I hope to get in on some martha projects this year with you!! Happy week! Nicole xoxo

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  31. It sounds delicious, Jennifer, though I would need to tweak it to be less salty. Another to try when we get back home...

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  32. That looks delicious...when can I come over? :) xx

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  33. That looks delicious...when can I come over? :) xx

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  34. Oooo, I was wondering where this conversation was leading!! The sauce sounds delicious and perfect for a cold winter's meal :)
    Wendy

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  35. looks great.. minus the anchovies.. Does it give it a fishy taste?

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  36. I love this dish but John does not so I rarely eat it, with is a shame as it's a perfect throw-together dish that is easy and economical and also tasty. But when I read this post last weekend you inspired me and so, when John was out playing football last Sunday night, I made a version of this for myself. I didn't have any capers though, and I did miss them, but it was still really good so thank you for the idea. x

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  37. Tasty! I've not tried this though as olives don't always agree with me. Any suggestions for a substitute?

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    1. Hi Annie, I'm not really sure...I think you want the briny flavors from the olives, so maybe a different pickled vegetable such as artichoke hearts? Or if it's the texture you want, maybe mushrooms? Pickled mushrooms?

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  38. I like this pasta dish too. It's my husband who does most of the cooking in our house and sometimes on busy weekdays he makes pasta puttanesca because, like you say, it's quick and easy but also very tasty. He makes his own anchovy paste from tinned anchovies. I'm not sure though how he makes it :-)

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  39. This looks delicious. I agree that using anchovy paste gives a real deep savoury flavour to dishes , without makimg them taste of fish! X

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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