Sugo alla puttanesca is one of my favourite sauces. It’s crammed with robust ingredients that pack a tangy yet salty punch. The piquancy from the tomatoes and capers, spicy kick from the dried chillies, and saltiness from the anchovies and olives delivers explosion after explosion of flavour to your taste buds.
What’s even better is that it is an absolute doddle to make. It can be as rustic as you like, as even whole olives wouldn’t look out of place in this gutsy dish. Ready in less than ten minutes, puttanesca is an excellent dish to have on standby as the ingredients are probably lurking in the depths of your cupboard right now.
Puttanesca literally means ‘in the style of the whore’ as a puttana is a lady of the night. Legend has it that the heady aroma lured in patrons from the street as the overworked harlots whipped up this simple yet satisfying dish in between customers. A slightly more wholesome explanation is that Sandro Petti an Ischian restaurateur found his pantry bare when put on the spot by his famished friends, so was forced to facci una puttanata qualsiasi – in other words – make them whatever damned thing he can from his paltry pantry offering of four tomatoes, a couple of capers and some olives. He whipped up a tasty sauce with spaghetti, but when refining the dish for his restaurant menu thought spaghetti alla puttanesca had a better ring to it than spaghetti alla puttanata.
RECIPE: Pasta alla puttanesca
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)
500g of spaghetti (I prefer rigatoni)
Two finely chopped garlic cloves
Three or four anchovy fillets
One or two finely sliced dried chillies
Three or four diced plum tomatoes
A handful of chopped black olives (kalamata work best)
A tablespoon of capers
A twist of freshly ground peppercorns
A splash of olive oil (or the oil the anchovies have been sitting in)
INSTRUCTIONS: Add the pasta and a generous handful of salt to a large saucepan of boiling water. Fry the garlic cloves, anchovies and chillies in a splash of olive oil for a minute and add the tomatoes. Cook for a couple more minutes or until the tomatoes are beginning to break down and add the olives and capers. Fry for a couple more minutes by which time the pasta should be al dente. Immediately toss the drained pasta in the pan with the puttanesca sauce and serve straight away with a grind of pepper, a full-bodied red and enjoy…