Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Recipe: Puttanesca

I say this year we turn February into the month of LUST. Forget roses, valentines, and candy hearts. Instead, let's celebrate the lust in all of us with the deliciously fragrant and spicy dish named after 'the ladies of the night.' You got that right.
Puttanesca, directly translated to mean "In the style of the whore" originated in Naples after the local women of easy virtue. In my research on the culinary history of the dish I discovered many theories on why this tasty treat has such a promiscuous past. Some of my favorites were that the intense aroma would lure men in from the streets, making the Nepalese harlots the sirens of scent. Another thought was that it was quick and easy to make. And the ladies didn't have an entire hour for lunch... Another theory is that olives are an aphrodisiac. I hadn't heard that one before.

Regardless, it's delicious. It's my favorite thing to order at an authentic Italian restaurant. Next time you're in Bellingham, go to Diana's Cafe Italiano and order it. You won't be sorry. And you needn't be embarrassed, either.
Below is the recipe. I'm really looking forward to hearing your critiques after you make it. I only ask that you raise a glass to our lovely ladies of Naples before taking your first bite. Vivere per mangiare!

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (reserve 1 tbsp)
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tsp (or more!) crushed red pepper flakes
2 cans diced tomatoes (lightly drained and chopped)
3 tbsp capers
10 pitted Italian/Mediterranean black olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 package spaghetti
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy fillets and cook for 1 minute. Be careful not to over-cook the garlic or it will get bitter. (For those of you who are freaking out about the anchovies, they will completely dissolve in the oil and then you can forget they're even in there). Add the chili flakes, capers, olives, tomatoes, pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook the pasta while the sauce is simmering. Drain pasta and mix with sauce. (If your sauce pan isn't big enough to add the pasta to it, just pour your sauce into the bottom of the pot you used to boil your noodles in to give you optimal mixing space). Toss with remaining tbsp of olive oil and parsley. Take a quick taste and add salt if necessary. Serve!

Simple, fast and delicious.

BATF Suggested Variations
Add green olives with or instead of black olives, substitute rigatoni noodles for spaghetti, add roasted pine nuts and or freshly shaved Parmesan. For a more meaty texture, add mushrooms and for a twist on flavor, add basil instead of parsley.

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  1. Did you know anchovies are incredibly healthy (at least that's what I've read)? They're rich in Omega 3's, low in mercury, high in protein, low in calories, and a good source of calcium. I've been meaning to incorporate them into our diet, so I'm thrilled they're in your recipe, so I HAVE to try them! Oh and they're an aphrodisiac too - it's a win win!

  2. I made puttanesca and topped fresh, grilled tuna with the sauce. It was divine. The leftover sauce went on pasta the following night.


  3. Great post! I love the historical backround! I'm officially going to be a lady of the night soon! Maybe for Valentine's Day?? Although... anchovies and olives don't sound like a prelude to smooching! hehe
    Can't wait to try it!