Friday, December 24, 2010

Pasta Puttanesca

Our children are pasta freaks, they would eat it every night if I let them. Frankly, they probably got it from me. A few Christmas's ago my in-laws gave me Lidia Bastianich's Italian-American Kitchen. We have quite a few cookbooks, and I would have to say this is probably one of my all-time favorites! Every recipe I have tried out of this cookbook has been delicious, and many of them are quick and easy. I hope to share a few of our favorites with you this coming year.

One of the first recipes I tried was the Fusilli alla Puttanesca. It was a hit right away, sure we have made a few tweaks here and there, but this is a winner. Here is the note that Lidia includes with the recipe, which I found interesting.
"Puttana is Italian for a lady who renders her services under cover of the night; esca is a suffix that means "in the style of." This dish is quick to make, full of flavor: and as the story goes, one that was often prepared by the ladies when they got hungry between their "appointments." The story could by true or it could be allegorical, but in either case, the name stuck."

Pasta Puttanesca
Yes, there are anchovies in this dish. They add a great flavor and no one will know they are there so please try them. They dissolve during cooking, and add a wonderful flavor. If you are feeling shy about using them, use a tablespoon of anchovy paste instead.
Brian likes his tomatoes chunky, so he crushes his by hand. I like mine more smooth so I put them in the blender/food processor. If you choose to use this method be careful not to process them too fine or they incorporate a lot of air and turn your tomatoes pink.
One year for Christmas we gave Brian's siblings this recipe and all the ingredients to make it. Later his youngest brother said he noticed how using good quality ingredients really makes a dish. I encourage you to use the best ingredients you can afford and you will taste the results.

One large can Italian Plum tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
1 1/2 cups good quality olives, green or black or both. (If you have an olive bar at your store use those, if not use the olives from a jar)
1 pound pasta (fusilli, penne,or spaghetti) I like Barilla
Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
3 anchovy fillets or anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. crushed hot red pepper
1/4 cup tiny capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup basil (optional)
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano, or parmigiano-reggiano cheese

In an eight-quart pot bring six quarts of salted water over high heat. Covering your pot will expedite this process.
Pour the tomatoes either in a bowl and crush them with your hands or use a food processor (see the note above). If your olives have pits crush them with the flat side of a heavy knife. Set aside both the tomatoes and olives.
Stir your pasta into the boiling water. Return to a boil quickly and stir frequently. Cook the pasta with lid half way on. Stir the pasta occasionally until done according to the package directions.
While your pasta is cooking make the sauce. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Crush the garlic with the back of knife and remove the skin. Add the crushed garlic to the pan and cook, shaking and stirring the pan until light brown about two minutes. Watch this very carefully, you don't want to burn the garlic. Add the anchovies stir them with a spoon to break them up. Toss in the olives and cook until sizzling about two minutes. Carefully pour in your tomatoes (stand back, because everything will sizzle) and add the red pepper. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer, and cook for five minutes. Stir in the capers.
If your pan is large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, scoop our the cooked pasta with a large wire skimmer and place it directly into the sauce. If not, drain the pasta return it to the pot, and add the sauce. Place over medium heat and stir in the basil if you are using it. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Check the seasonings and serve right away.
Source: Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen


Dawn Young Cunningham said...

I wish we lived closer!

Joe Ambrosino said...

Hi Rachel,

We love putanesca. In our house , it was a a special treat mom made on Christmas Eve (when we couldn't eat meat). When she made it, she used both green and black olives, and she added pine nuts to the sauce. I'm not sure if this was her invention, or if she got it from my grandmother (who was from Naples) I still make it that way. Try it!

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