Pasta PuttanescaPasta Puttanesca

Inspired by the delicious loaf of bread I took home from work to make something saucy, I decided to try to make my first pasta puttanesca, which I’d been wanting to try for a few months, ever since I got over my fear of olives and anchovies.

Pasta Puttanesca is an old Italian recipe that takes its name from the prostitutes who used to make it. It was quick and easy, and they could use whatever they had around.

I didn’t have a chance to study a recipe, and I wanted to do it like a puttana would, on the fly, so I went to Whole Foods and bought a can of black olives, a jar of capers, and some diced tomatoes. I had anchovies, raisins, onions, garlic, pasta, and Parmesan cheese at home.

I put all of the sauce ingredients together in the pot, along with a healthy splash of port and some salt and pepper, and I cooked it for about an hour and a half before tossing it with penne.

It was good, but I’m afraid the canned olives imparted an unwelcome metallic note to the flavor. I am practically an olive virgin, but I think I learned my lesson about the canned variety. Real ni├žoise would have been much better. At first I thought it was the one anchovy fillet that I used, but I know better: Anchovies become very mild after being cooked for a while. Anyway, the highlight was the delicious fig, hazelnut, and fennel bread, which rocked my world.

I did look at a few recipes last night, and some advise you not to cook the sauce at all! You’d have to be a mad dog, but maybe using mom’s suggestion of replacing the anchovies with sundried tomatoes would make it tolerable.


Funny how ideas about dishes that originated in the kitchens or campfires of the less privileged, like minestrone, chicken cacciatore or chasseur, pasta puttanesca, Brunswick stew, and others have become so rigid that if you leave out or change an ingredient folks scream that they’re not authentic.

I’m sure all those prostitutes had anchovies every time they made pasta…

I say to hell with authenticity.

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