I don’t recall if I have ever eaten this pasta dish before, but I did like the look of it. After a bit of reading, I decided to make it myself. I mean, why not, eh? As R. always says, “Why pay €15 for a plate of food you can simply make yourself at home?”
The thing with pastas is that constructing the dish isn’t hard. It doesn’t require extensive technical skill since most dishes are homey meals. I managed to make this for my dinner tonight in 30 mins flat. Fast. Easy. Delicious!
Most of my experiences with pasta have came from trial and error … but I am improving, slowly but surely. As a child I HATED spaghetti coz I thought it had the weirdest flavour. Thick strings of what looked like noodles (but weren’t), all mixed up in tomato sauce that was way too acidic, topped with funky smelling grated cheese (I was never exposed to the smell of Parmesan before). Nope … didn’t like it one bit. But as I grew up I realized my error was eating spaghetti at Pizza Hut.
Mum did a fairly good job at making spaghetti Bolognese at home, even though here again I found the sauce a bit too tart. It wasn’t until I moved out from home and began cooking on my own that I started tweaking sauces to go with my pasta. I also started eating out more, at establishments that didn’t make bad pasta or used pre-made sauces from a can. My eyes really began to open up to the possibility that, “Hey, Italian food really does go beyond spaghetti + meat sauce”. You must realize that in the 1990’s Malaysia didn’t have places that served proper “western” meals, apart from 5-star hotels … and that was way out of my budget. Singapore was better, but it was my eventual move to Melbourne, Australia that I really got the food exposure I never knew I needed. Two words : Lygon Street. It’s the Little Italy of Melbourne City, and it is a treasure trove of little Italian restaurants serving pretty decent meals. Before my move to Melbourne, things like basil pesto, carpaccio and arancini did not exist in my food vocabulary. I am by no means saying it is the best place to eat at but for someone as inexperienced with Italian cuisine as I was, Lygon was the bomb!
From my online reading, I have since discovered that Puttanesca comes from the word Puttana in Italian, which means ‘whore’. Why this dish was named such is unknown, but folk tales abound. One such story implies that the sauce was favoured by the puttanas because it was a quick, cheap and easy sauce to make in between servicing their clients, hence the name. Another theory suggests that the “working girls” would show up late at the restaurant and the owners would just rustle up a quick meal using whatever was leftover. Well whatever the actual story behind the name is, this dish contains good and wholesome ingredients that are favourites of the south: black olives, garlic, fresh tomatoes, salty anchovies and capers.
- 50 g kalamata olives
- 1 tbsp caper berries
- 4 – 6 anchovy fillets
- 4 large tomatoes, skinned and diced
- ½ cup passata sauce
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp oregano
- Grated Parmesan to finish.
- chopped fresh basil
The pasta is boiled as per usual, in salted boiling water. While it is boiling away, make the sauce.
Olive oil is heated in a pan and the anchovy fillets are cooked over a gentle heat. They will melt into a paste eventually, and once that happens add the garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant and the anchovy fillets have broken down fully, add the diced fresh tomatoes or use canned tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, score the skin and dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge them into cold water. Peel off the skin and dice.
Once the tomatoes are in, toss them about with the anchovy paste and garlic. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes then add the passata sauce + oregano leaves and simmer for a few more minutes. When the sauce has reduced a little, add the caper berries and black olives, either whole or sliced.
By this time the pasta should be cooked enough. Drain in a colander and toss it in the hot sauce. I like to toss the spaghetti in a bit of butter first. Garnish with parsley or fresh basil and shaved Parmesan cheese.
This took me no time at all to put together and it was Deeeeee-licious! R. was being a big baby about the whole thing and turned up his nose at the anchovies and olives. Oh well, his loss is my gain … and what a gain it was! Definitely a winner and I will be making this again in future; one more scrumptious pasta dish under my belt. Don’t be afraid of the anchovies coz you really won’t know they were ever added into the sauce. It gives off a nice briny flavour but not a fishy one. Watch the salt (I didn’t add any) and you should be good to go.
~ enjoy ~