Saturday, January 3, 2015

Italian Pasta Classics - Fusilli Puttanesca

Happy New Year! It will shock no one that we resolve to cook and, more importantly, eat even more great food in 2015. I hope you'll come along for the ride. To this end, it is time again for Italian Pasta Classics, and this week, we are exploring one of most storied sauces Southern Italy has ever given us - Puttanesca. It also happens to be one of my top five favorite pasta preparations of all time - capers, olives, anchovies - I ask you, what's not to love!?  Now to the name, oh, the name. Yeesh. Puttanesca means, how to put this, in the style of the... not-so-nice-word for practicers of the proverbial "oldest profession." The more you know, as they say. 

Puttanesca Sauce, Photo: NK 

There are various accounts of origins of this deliciously easy dish. Probably the most ubiquitous is the anecdote that Pasta Puttanesca was something quickly thrown together from common pantry items, thus making it the ideal sustenance for these working women in between appointments. For my own part, I was surprised to learn that the dish, or at least the name, is relatively young. Several sources trace it only as far back as the middle of the 20th century (figures, right?).  As food lore goes, the popularly accepted story of Puttanesca is pretty well known, however I recently read a very interesting article that posited that despite the name, the dish may not have had much to do with sex workers at all. The author aptly notes that "Sex workers aren't the only people who appreciate quick, aromatic meals." Her theory on the origin has been batted around before, though less often. Check out the full article hereAs you will note, there's not to an exact recipe for this dish conceived in imprecision, but I invite your to try our favorite iteration of it today. What you do after you eat it is most definitely your own business. Enjoy! 

Fusilli Puttanesca
Serves 4 as an entree 
Castelvetrano & Gaeta Olives, Photo: NK
Lightly Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
1 35 Ounce Can whole San Marzano Tomatoes 
1 Pound Fusilli
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil plus more for drizzling
3 Large Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 Cup Gaeta or similar Olives
3/4 Cup Castelvetrano Olives, or other meaty, firm and bright green variety such as Cerignola
5-6 high quality Anchovy Fillets
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup Capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
Toasted breadcrumbs (if you need a topping, but not usually necessary)

1. Start a large pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. Add the Fusilli as soon as it comes to a boil and cook for 9 minutes for al dente. 

A sauce that is both gorgeous & flavorful, Photo: NK
2. Pit the Olives by smashing them with a heavy, flat object such as the bottom on the pan and removing the pit. Coarsely chop the Olives and set aside.

3. In a very large skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the Garlic Cloves and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until they begin to brown. Place the Anchovies in the pan and break the up a bit using a wooden spoon. Add the Olives and cook 2 more minutes until they sizzle. Add the Tomatoes along with their juices and mash them using a potato masher until the large chunks are broken up. Add the Crushed Red Pepper.

4. Allow sauce to boil and then lower the heat to where it stays at an energetic simmer. Cook for 5 minutes and add the Capers. 

5. By this time your pasta should be done. Drain it through a colander and add the pasta to the skillet containing the sauce. Turn up the flame to medium and add the Parsley. Stir. Remove skillet from the flame and check for seasoning (a very little bit of salt may be needed) and serve! 
**Special thanks to Cousin Julie for the delicious homegrown and hand canned tomatoes!! 

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the tomatoes and can make them look (and taste) so wonderful! I love Puttanesca and will have to try my hand at this recipe ASAP.