Spaghetti Puttanesca apparently translates as ‘spaghetti in the style of a prostitute,’ commonly known as Whore’s Pasta or lovingly known in this household as Tart’s Spaghetti!! There are a number of claims to the name and origins of this dish but my favourite by far and most romantic is that the working girls of Naples could make this cheap dish as a quick pick me up out of store cupboard ingredients between punters.
The fact that this is easily knocked up (no pun intended) from store cupboard ingredients which produce a bowl of the richest tastiest pasta dishes I know is an extreme advantage. No matter how hung over; tired; rushed or fed up you are from your chosen career this is a great dish to have up your sleeve. A bowlful of Spaghetti Puttanesca really does get you back in the saddle (so to speak!).
For two people take from your store cupboard 6 to 8 ounces of spaghetti (depending on your hunger level – if you want 10 ounces – no one is going to know!); olive oil; 2 fat cloves of garlic; 4 anchovies (salted or in oil); half a red chilli chopped finely or a few dried chilli flakes; 50g of olives – colour of your choice; a heaped tablespoon of capers; a handful of fresh basil leaves chopped; a squirt of tomato puree; two tins of chopped tomatoes.
Cook the pasta as per usual.
In a separate pan (I use a saute pan) add a glug of olive oil; the garlic; anchovies; chilli; olives; capers; basil & tomato puree and cook on a medium heat; stirring the ingredients until the anchovies soften and melt and the ingredients meld together. The smell is just divine. Add the tomatoes (you can use fresh – it gives a slightly less dense sauce but wonderful all the same). Stir it all together. Let it simmer away robustly until the pasta is ready. Season.
I quite like to make the sauce in advance and cook it until it is deep and unctuous, I just warm it through then whilst I am cooking the pasta – it is very forgiving. This just cuts down time if I am going to have a busy evening (like the women in Naples) or have friends coming for supper.
Drain the pasta (save some pasta water) and add it to the pan of sauce and mix well until every strand of pasta is coated in the wonderful sticky sauce. Use a tablespoon or two of the pasta water if you feel the need to thin the sauce. Job done!
Serve with a wedge of parmesan or pecorino to grate over. A glass or two of red works well here too!
If you haven’t tried this, I urge you to. Don’t be put off by the anchovies – the dish doesn’t taste of fish. With the capers the anchovies give a deep salty wonderful umami taste to the dish. As all my recipes – do not be afraid to add your own twist to make it your own – the spirit of this dish is that it is made quickly from what you have.
Happy Days. x