That naughty pasta recipe
This has to be one of my favourite tomato based pasta recipes. Full of big bold flavours and an absolute cinch to make, pasta puttanesca hails from southern Italy and as such stars all their most loved ingredients such as olives, chilli pepper, garlic and capers.
As you’d learn with a quick look on the net, pasta puttanesca translates as ‘whore’s pasta’ and there remains some debate about why. One theory is that pasta puttanecsa is a quick recipe, made from pantry rather than fresh ingredients and therefore could be knocked together for a fast meal between a courtesan’s clients. Another explanation is somewhat more visceral with name stemming from the heat of the chilli and salty ingredients representing more bodily elements of a lust-filled encounter.
Whatever the case, pasta puttanesca has a result garnered a slew of similar slang names such as strumpet spaghetti, prostitute pasta or from Nigella Lawson, the somewhat blunter ‘Slut’s Spaghetti’.
But whatever else you call it, I highly recommend you call it dinner next time you’re after a pasta recipe with punch. A great dish to knock together when the fridge is bare, I always have the ingredients for pasta puttanesca in my pantry when a trip to the supermarket isn’t on the agenda. Not only this but I must say, I’ve never had a pasta puttanesca in a Melbourne restaurant that quite lives up to my own! I say this with undying respect for many an Italian restaurant in this city where I often opt for risotto, panna cotta and of course, pizza made by a professional. But when it comes to pasta puttanesca, it is one recipe I’m more partial to partaking of at home.
Pasta puttanesca recipe
Ingredients – Serves 4
- 500g spaghetti
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8 anchovy fillets
- 800g chopped tomatoes or pasta
- ½-1 tsp. dried chilli flakes or 1 large red chilli finely chopped – depending on taste
- 1 onion – halved and finely sliced
- 1 ½ tbsp. capers
- 100-150h black olive, stones removed and halved
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- Parsley – chopped
- Parmasan – grated
- Balsamic vinegar – optional
- Splash of cream or milk – optional
- Pour a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil for the pasta then cook for the amount indicated on the packet. You want it to be al dente. When it is done, drain immediately by tossing in a colander over the sink and retain a small cup of pasta water for later.
- Meanwhile, while the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a medium sized pot along with a drizzle of anchovy oil from the jar. Add the sliced onions and cook until they are soft and translucent. Then, if you have some balsamic vinegar on hand, add a splash and stir to deglaze the onions – this will make them even sweeter.
- Add a little more oil, stir, allow to heat then add chilli and anchovies and fry for a minute, breaking the anchovies up with your wooden spoon so they become a mushy paste.
- Next add the garlic and fry for a further 30 seconds – stirring all the while so it does not brown.
- Pour in the tomatoes and stir vigorously to dislodge anything sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring throughout, for about 8-10 minutes so the sauce reduces and intensifies in flavour.
- After this time, add the capers and olives and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Taste, and add salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar if it is a bit too tart.
- Add most of the chopped parsley – keeping some for a garnish. Pour in a splash of milk or cream if using and a shot glass or so of pasta water.
- Stir the spaghetti directly into the sauce to combine it thoroughly. Serve in pre-warmed bowls with a generous grating of parmesan on top and a final scattering of parsley.