When Is Puttanesca Not Puttanesca?

When you’re a working couple and your jobs often don’t let you get home until after eight at night, there is one main consideration when it comes to choosing your dinner recipes – time. So, when I saw this Pasta Puttanesca recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook that promised dinner on the table in 20 minutes (ok, it disclaimed that you needed a little practice, but I was willing to bet that we could do it in 30), I was immediately, like, bookmark (a real bookmark, kids, this was a real cookbook and not a computer – I know, I know, how 17th century of me).
Now, the Boy’s mom makes a pretty damn awesome puttanesca, so this recipe had a lot to live up to. And one day I’ll get that recipe and it will be up here. But for now…
I started with San Marzano tomatoes, which every food blogger and cookbook author in the universe proclaims are the Best. Canned. Tomatoes. Period, the end. I thought they were good, though to be fair, I was far too excited about cementing my foodie status by using them to tell if they were actually that good or if I was just starstruck (foodstruck? tomato-struck?). The packaging is killer, though:
Anyway, you halve them, squeeze them, and throw them in a pan with some olive oil. It was at this point the Boy said, “I’m not sure there’s going to be very much sauce in this sauce…”
But, we pressed on.

After the tomatoes follow basically everything else in the recipe – plop, plop, plop. Olives, capers, anchovies…we actually skipped the salt since everything else had plenty.

We served our puttanesca over whole wheat spaghetti – and here’s the verdict. It was not his mother’s sauce. Indeed, it wasn’t very saucy. It was chunky, and not terribly pretty, and didn’t mix easily with the pasta. There were big pieces of tomato, and not a lot of liquid. It was salty. And it was…good! The Boy protested that “it wasn’t puttanesca.” Well, maybe so. But though my first bite was a little hesitant, the bites just kept on coming. And coming.

And it was easy, so – we’re keeping it.

Pasta Puttanesca
From The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
In addition to being pretty easy, this reheats excellently for work-lunch leftovers. If you’re looking for a sauce that’s a bit more of a sauce, I imagine you could either dump everything in a blender or start with crushed tomato rather than just chopped whole ones. But I haven’t done either of those things, so I take no responsibility for what happens if you do them. Let me know, will you?
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4-6 Servings
1 lb. spaghetti, linguine, or other thin dried pasta
2 cans (2 lbs. 3 oz each) peeled Italian plum tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup tiny black Nicoise olives
1/4 cup drained capers
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, plus additional for garnish
2 tsp salt (optional)
Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add salt and stir in the spaghetti. Cook until tender but still firm. Drain immediately when done and transfer to 4 heated plates.

While spaghetti is cooking, drain the tomatoes, cut them crosswise into halves, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Combine tomatoes and olive oil in a skillet and bring to a boil. Keep the sauce at a full boil and add remaining ingredients except pasta, one at a time, stirring frequently.

Reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook for a few minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Serve immediately over hot pasta and garnish with additional chopped parsley.


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