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The Best Pasta Puttanesca for Dinner Tonight

Updated on December 24, 2011

Quick Pasta Puttanesca Tonight

I turn to Italian food often when I cook. Not the drippy lasagna’s or hearty Bolognese’s, but simple food with simple fresh ingredients. A quick pasta puttanesca with tomatoes, olives, anchovies and parsley on pasta. Braised swiss chard with pine nuts and olives on pasta. Prosciutto, garlic, radicchio and parmesan on pasta. Asparagus, little tomatoes, olives, garlic and shrimp with pasta. Give me three to four ingredients that are fresh, combine with olive oil, garlic, toss with pasta, and you have a simple meal that is delicious. I like to cook like this because it requires no recipe, just the joy of shopping for fresh ingredients, chopping them, and smelling the pungent odors of their quick sauté. Cooking involves every sense. First, I must imagine the ingredients. Before I even shop, I can smell the basil, taste the earth still on the mushrooms, know the al dente of the pasta between my teeth. Like the anticipation of meeting a lover. Then, I shop. I shop completely prepared to be stolen away from my original intention. Stolen by the sight of what entices. Then I cook. If I am lucky, I share my meal with someone who likes to watch me cook, who likes to eat slowly and savor.

Tonight I cook for guests and it is hot, hot, hot outside. Which means I don’t want to stand in front of a hot stove or barbeque all night. But I still want to have a meal that my guests will enjoy and remember. We go back to the fresh ingredients, and I decide upon pasta puttanesca. The sauce is simple and pungent, with canned tomatoes, good ones that are unsalted from Napoli, black olives and capers. I will begin with cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto and end with miniature brownies, each with a walnut on top. They are the size of dollar pieces, the old-fashioned kind, not the new Susan B. Anthony dollars. I will serve them with spicy tea and with pomegranate and hibiscus sorbet. A cool and refreshing end to a good meal. The shopping takes more time than the cooking, with the pasta requiring all of about thirty minutes including prep.

There are many recipes out there for pasta puttanesca, but this simple one that I’ve been cooking for twenty five years, is my favorite.

Pasta Puttanesca

¼ C. Olive Oil

½ tsp. kosher or sea salt

5 garlic cloves halved

½ tsp. black pepper

¼ tsp. cayenne

4 Tbsp. capers

2/3 c. black olives halved

1/3 c. green olives halved

(note on olives: I tend to use pitted kalamata and large green cured olives)

1 can (35 ounces)tomatoes with no additives other than basil ( salt)

3 T. chopped Italian parsley

Freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago Cheese

Red pepper flakes to taste

I lb. Spaghettini

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the garlic. When the garlic begins to smoke, toss and add the olives and cook until they plump up. Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer on low until the flavors blend, approximately 15 minutes. Stir in the capers and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the chopped parsley. Pour over cooked pasta and top with the cheese and red pepper flakes to taste.


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      9 years ago

      I'm with you on the fresh, simple ingredients. There's nothing like going to a farmer's market and buying what looks good and then figuring out what to make. Yum!


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