Thursday, January 15, 2015

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Some traditional Italian pasta dishes have fabulously evocative names; like spaghetti alla carbonara, this pasta dish also paints a vivid picture of its supposed originators. Puttanesca derives from puttana, a prostitute, and the name connotes an easy, cheap, and deeply savory meal a working girl might hasten to throw together between, ahem, clients. Whatever its real origins, I love the name. Slattern spaghett'.

Those familiar with the basic ingredients of puttanesca might note that cured olives go conspicuously missing in mine. As I've mentioned a few times before, I just can't but, I do love tapenade! The tapenade I use is actually a sundried tomato version which I absolutely adore and think adds a lot to the flavor of the sauce, so if you opt for a 1/4 cup of cured olives instead of tapenade, maybe chop up a few sundried tomatoes too! Puttanesca, much like its namesakes of yore, is very accommodating.  

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Makes 3 servings

Adapted from A Food Obsession

*1/2 lb high quality spaghetti (De Cecco! I never use anything else.)
*3 large cloves of garlic, minced
*6 anchovies, chopped
*1 tablespoon chopped capers
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
*Pinch sugar
*Pinch oregano
*Freshly ground black pepper
*1 "big spoonful" tapenade, about 2-3 tablespoons (or, cured olives)
*3-4 leaves basil, torn

Heat a puddle of evoo in a pot over medium and melt the anchovies into the oil for a bit before adding the garlic, capers, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. After a minute or so, pour in the tomatoes and stir in the tapenade with a pinch of sugar and oregano. Tear in the basil leaves and grind some pepper into the mix, too.

Let the sauce cook over medium-low, stirring frequently, as you put the pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Salt the water well and boil the spaghetti until al dente, then drain and toss with the sauce. Reserve a smidge of the pasta water in case the dish is a little dry.

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