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May 30, 2023

Pasta Puttenesca

An Adventure in Flavors

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Every time my dad made pasta, he would give us a warning that it was almost ready. Then about five seconds before he put it on the table, he yelled,” It’s ready!” and that meant you better be in your chair- now! Eating pasta as soon as it is cooked is the best way to enjoy it. That is when the consistency is the best.

When cooked al dente, pasta is cooked to perfection, slightly firm, and the Italians will say it’s the only way to cook pasta.

Pasta Puttanesca originated in Naples, Italy, my dad's hometown. It's known as the "angry pasta" because of its spicy hot, and "fiery" taste. Even if you don't like spicy food, you can still enjoy this intensely flavored dish by modifying it slightly. One of the things I love most about cooking is the variety of ways to prepare the same dish. You can find inspiration in the ingredients and change them to your taste.

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If you've never tried Pasta Puttanesca, this recipe is a great starting point. And if you love Puttanesca as much as I do, I hope this easy recipe will inspire you to make it at home.

It's a comforting and romantic dish that will warm you up and add a little spark to your evening. It's perfect for a cozy winter evening with a fire going and a glass of red wine, followed by a clementine and a piece of dark chocolate.

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Pasta Puttenesca

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This Pasta Puttanesca recipe is made with the original ingredients, but you can adjust the amounts to suit your taste. It's loaded with flavor and nutrients.

Ingredients

Scale

200 g of spaghetti for a main dish for two people or a small serving before a main dish for four people.

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 cloves of fresh garlic

6-8 anchovies

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tbsp capers

About 1/3 cup cured black olives- see notes below

3/4 cup to 1 cup of homemade tomato sauce or a cup of fresh cherry tomatoes and a tsp of tomato paste- see notes below

1/4 cup of fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta. In the ingredients, I stated a tablespoon as a guideline. There’s no need to dirty a measuring spoon, just add a drizzle of olive oil to your pan.

2. Mince the garlic with a knife or garlic press and add it to the pan. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle the garlic but not burn it. Cook the garlic for about a minute.

3. Add the anchovies and cook them while stirring a few times for about 2-3 minutes until they melt. They will dissolve into the oil.

4. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute.

5. Add capers and olives and stir to combine.

6. Add the tomato sauce and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the sauce cook for about 10 minutes.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, keep the heat on medium and add the tomatoes to the pan. Cook them until they are soft, and then mash them- a potato masher works very well. Add a teaspoon of tomato paste to make the sauce richer in flavor and thicker.

7. Cook pasta to just under al dente - about 1 1/2 minutes less than the package recommends. By sampling the pasta, you can test to see if the pasta is cooked al dente. If there is a small amount of white in the center of the pasta and it is firm but not too difficult to chew, then it is ready.

8. When the pasta is cooked, reserve a few tablespoons of the pasta water before straining it- you’ll use this for the sauce.

9. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water and increase the heat to bring the pasta and sauce to a vigorous simmer. The starch in the pasta water helps to thicken the sauce and helps it cling to the pasta better.

10. Sprinkle with fresh parsley. And tell everyone to have a seat; the pasta is ready.

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Notes

If you are serving a salad, it is customary to eat the salad after. Then you don't have to get up from the table to make pasta after you eat your salad. Some after-dinner cheese would pair well with the salad after this pasta dish.

Look for cured black olives at the olive bar at your grocery store, or order them here. Canned black olives do not have the same taste, and while this dish won’t be terrible, it won’t be as good if you use canned olives. You can read more about the difference between canned black olives and high-quality cured olives here and where to buy them online.

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I often cook "au pif," as we say in France, which means cooking without an exact recipe and by "feel" using your intuition.  You’ll often find guidelines in many recipes versus exact quantities.  Write to me here if you have any questions about the recipes.

Copyright 2019-2023, Return to the Table by Caterina De Falco, All Rights Reserved

Food Tells a Story

The story of the origin of Pasta Puttanesca varies, but there is a common point: they made it with what was in the cupboard. Keep this in mind when you cook: the quantities in the recipe are just guidelines. Adjust the ingredients to your liking. Don't get hung up on exact measurements; it'll help you cook faster and let your creativity flow.

Discussing everyone's opinion of a dish is a great way to start a dinner conversation. How would they change the recipe? What flavors do they taste? What other variations can they come up with? Or perhaps this recipe reminds you of a dish that your mother made when you were growing up. This could lead to telling a story and a meaningful conversation about a family member.

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How to Serve Dinner to Please Your Whole Family

Next up:

How to serve cheese for dessert - French style, which goes very well with Pasta Puttanesca and is an excellent family dinner idea. Click here to get notified when I post it so you don’t miss this delicious idea.

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