20-Minute Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca Recipe: An Italian Pasta Recipe With an Interesting Story to Tell by Chef Gigi
Various colorful stories explain the history of this dish and how Puttanesca pasta got its name. “Puttanesca” roughly translates to “working girls." In Italian, a politically correct term. Stories tell how this dish was invented in the brothels of Naples, so the smells from the kitchen would entice potential … ummm, let's just say, possible clients strolling by. Another story claims this pasta was a quick and simple dish ladies of the Neapolitan night could throw together in a hurry in amongst their busy, busy schedules. I just know it's delicious!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 fresh anchovy fillets, minced fine
- 1/4 cup pitted black olives, preferably in oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh capers, drained
- 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
- 1 - 2 cups pasta cooking liquid
- 1 - 2 sprig fresh oregano, roughly chopped
- 2 leafy sprigs fresh basil, roughly torn
- Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Here's how to make it:
- In a large stockpot cook the pasta to the manufacturer's directions. Reserve 1 to 2 cups of the cooking water.
- In a skillet large enough to hold all the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 15 to 20 seconds until it starts turning golden. Add anchovies, capers, olives and chili flakes. Cook for an additional minute.
- Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Increase the heat to a high simmer. Add the oregano, a pinch of salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper. Stir, reduce heat to medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until the tomato has broken down and created a sauce.
- Return to medium-low heat and add pasta into the sauce. Add an additional cup of pasta cooking liquid reserved from the previous step.
- Toss the pasta until the sauce becomes thick and adheres to the pasta. Transfer into warm bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, basil and grated cheese.
Pro Tip: This is one of those dishes that genuinely benefits from better quality ingredients. In this pasta, the olives are the star. Let them shine. They are that one ingredient worth seeking out. Choose fresh pitted deli-style olives in oil or brine, rather than cheaper jarred or canned olives you find on supermarket shelves. Also, you don't need much salt in a Puttanesca sauce because the olives, capers and anchovies provide the seasoning.
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