The classic Italian dish, pasta puttanesca, indelicately draws its name from the world’s oldest profession. No, not cooking. The name of the fresh, and easy sauce known as puttanesca, derives from the Italian word for a prostitute and, according to legend was meant to describe a dish that could be quickly prepared by streetwalkers between…
Although this recipe calls for linguini, puttanesca compliments nearly every shape of pasta and is even tasty atop grilled crostini or bruschetta.
As with most recipes, the key is to use full-flavored fresh ingredients starting with the primary ingredient, fresh, ripe, seasonal tomatoes.
Ingredients to serve four:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 4 large tomatoes
- 8 kalamata olives
- 1/8 cup capers or caper berries
- 8 oil-cured black olives
- 4 oil packed anchovies coarsely chopped (optional)
- Four large basil leaves torn or cut into ribbons
- Sprig of fresh parseley, coarsely chopped
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Shaved parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
- 1 lb linguini or other pasta cooked according to package directions and drained.
Blanch tomatoes briefly in boiling water just to soften skin for easy removal. Chop peeled tomatoes into pieces about a half-inch square and set aside. (Note: blanching the tomatoes is an optional step done mostly for aesthetic purposes. Leaving the skins on is perfectly acceptable and changes the texture of the dish only slightly.)
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onions and garlic until they soften slightly and release their aroma. Season with cracked black pepper and stir before adding the tomatoes, olives, and anchovies. Cook until the tomatoes are heated through and just beginning to lose shape. Taste for seasoning. Generally, salt is not needed because the olives, capers, and anchovies each provide a certain saltiness along with their own rich flavors.
Cook linguini, either fresh or good quality packaged, and drain thoroughly. Distribute among four warmed pasta bowls.
Meanwhile, at the last moment, stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and spoon over the pasta. Top with a few shavings of fresh parmesan or pecorino romano cheese. Drizzle on remaining olive oil and serve with crusty Italian bread.
This dish is always best when tomatoes are in season, but in order to enjoy it year-round, rather than resorting to hothouse or canned tomatoes, it is possible to produce nearly the same flavor and texture by using garden tomatoes that have been skinned, chopped, and quickly frozen in plastic zip sealed bags from which most of the air has been gently expelled.