Pasta Puttanesca

by rivka on February 28, 2008 · 7 comments

in main dishes

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I am notoriously bad at making decisions. When we eat out, I always order last, often oscillating between two or three choices to the very last second. “What do you want to do tonight?” is my least favorite question. I’m not gonna tell you that it’s different in Italian restaurants — i still take forever to make up my darn mind — but when in doubt, I unwaveringly choose pasta puttanesca. It may even be the benchmark by which I judge an italian joint. For D, that’s gnocchi; if the gnocchi is bad, the place ain’t worth it. But I’d happily forgo plump, soft gnocchi anyday for a solid bowl of homemade pasta and that delightfully salty and spicy puttanesca sauce.

Puttanesca is ideally eaten with penne or another tubular pasta that holds the sauce nicely. I happened to have cavatelli from Vace, a fantastic Italian market and pizza shop nearby, so I used that. Cavatelli are small disks of pasta that have been rolled from both ends to resemble miniature hot dog buns; when cooked, they’re unctuous and toothsome — fantastic for really biting into.

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Pasta Puttanesca
serves 2-3

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed or chopped
  • 1/4 of a large onion, chopped coarsely
  • about 5 anchovies in salt (preferably) or oil (will do)
  • a healthy tsp. chili flakes, more if desired
  • 1/2 cup kalamata or other black olives, chopped (or whole if you’re an olive fiend as I am)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 2 cans good canned tomatoes or 3 cups of your favorite homemade tomato sauce
  1. Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot, and saute the garlic and onion over medium heat.
  2. Add the anchovies and chili flakes and stir until the anchovy starts to break down, about two minutes.
  3. Add canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, and stir to combine. Let simmer for — oh, about two seconds, just until the flavors introduce themselves to each other.
  4. Add to fresh, just-boiled pasta, toss to combine, and eat up!
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