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I've never been to Italy but if I were to go, I think I'd really enjoy the southern area. I'm always drawn to the pungent and briny tastes of the south. Olives, capers, anchovies, bright citrus, fruity olive oils... I love all of those flavours - they all go hand-in-hand together. Savoury with savoury. Why not?
I had a Siclian-style dinner recently and I had a lot of leftover ingredients due to the caponata I made. The flavours found in caponata are very similar to the dish I was going to make: spaghetti puttanesca.
Puttanesca, or "whore sauce", is a very savoury southern Italian tomato sauce filled with pockets of briny ingredients - olives, capers, and anchovies. It was rumoured it was named "who sauce" because prostitutes were known to cook this cheap and cheerful sauce as the aroma was said to lure in potential clients. And when I was making this sauce, who could blame them!? The smell is so wonderfully intoxicating and enticing.
This dish can be made start to finish within 20 minutes which makes for a great weeknight meal. Additionally, it keeps well for the week without the sauce drying up. If you can't find passata, you can always use canned San Marzano tomatoes (which is actually the more traditional method). Lastly, if you want to stay authentic, serve it as is! Rarely is cheese added to puttanesca as all of the ingredients are quite savoury and the additional salt is not needed.
SPAGHETTI PUTTANESCA - makes 4 - 6 servings
1 (500g) pkg spaghetti
¼ cup extra virgin olive ol
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ red onion, diced
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
6 small anchovy filets, in oil,
¼ cup capers, drained
1 (298ml) can sliced and pitted black olives, drained
2 cups passata (Italian tomato sauce)
½ cup pasta water
salt + pepper, to taste
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Prepare the spaghetti according to package directions and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water. Drain, rinse and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and chili flakes and saute for 2 minutes or until the garlic starts to brown.
Add in the anchovies and crush with the spoon you are cooking with until they are mainly broken apart. The anchovies will disintegrate with the sauce so no need to worry if it’s not evenly broken apart.
Add in the olives and the capers and saute for 1 minute.
Add in the passata and stir until everything is well-incorporated. Add in the pasta water – this will help the sauce stick to the pasta and give it more body. Add salt and pepper if necessary.
Add in the cooked spaghetti and toss until every noodle is coated.
Top with freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley just before serving.