Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Also known as Prostitute’s or Whore’s spaghetti. Why? I’ve learned the aromatics from this dish is supposed to tickle the olfactory system, thus enticing a working girl’s customers to come pay a visit.

Before I go further, let me give credit where it is due. I came across the recipe I’m using from an article I read by Eric Akis of the Times Colonist whilst visiting Victoria this past week. He writes an enjoyable article, and suggest you read it.

I’ve done further internet research, and have learned that there is a number of different ways of putting this dish together – whole tomatoes vs strained tomatoes, for instance, but tonight I am favouring Eric’s recipe.

Here’s a photo of the ingredients:


Ideally, there should be a bunch of fresh, bright basil leaves in this picture, but the Italian Centre Shop was out, in  my time of need. I won’t hold a grudge though – they had everything else I needed, and will live, just this once, with dried basil.

Unless baking, I rarely follow a recipe to spec. Again, please read Eric’s recipe if you are more comfortable with precise amounts. I have a hard time measuring spaghetti. If I have a recipe that needs spaghetti, the whole box is used. If I need strained tomatoes, I will dump in the entire bottle. In this case, this recipe requires:

Spaghetti (1 box)
Olive oil (glugs to taste)
Chili flakes (to taste)
Anchovies (4 -5)
Capers (tablespoon or two)
Strained tomatoes (1 bottle)
Garlic, glorious, glorious garlic (today it was 7 cloves)
Black olives (1/2 – 3/4 cup)
Basil (dried, 2 tbsp)

I will use caution with the anchovies, black olives and capers and use the 4 minced anchovies, 1/2 cup of black olives and 2 tbsp capers Eric recommends only because I’m not all that familiar cooking with these things and don’t want the dish to get too salty or fishy.

The method is straight forward. Boil up a pot of water for the spaghetti. When it boils, drop the heat down and concentrate on the sauce.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic, anchovies and chili flakes. Make sure the heat isn’t too high. You don’t want to burn that lovely garlic. When the smell gets to a point of toe-curling rapture, add the tomatoes, dried basil leaves, olives and capers.

While this is simmering, bring the pot of water back to the boil and cook the spaghetti. When it’s done, scoop out a teacup full of the water and set aside. Drain the spaghetti, put it back in the pot and add the sauce. If it’s too sticky, add bits of the reserved water.

Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have it. We can’t eat pasta without it. We invest in this cheese. We buy more than we need, have one that is in use, and a spare in the back of the fridge so we never run out.

There you have it, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. Time for me to leave, pull on some fishnet stockings over my arthritic knees, a black satin corset with red feather trim on my squishy torso, stiletto’s on my plantar fasciitis feet and some ruby red lipstick on my chapped lips. Where did I put that riding crop? … *wink*

POSTSCRIPT: While opening the tin of anchovies, the lip snapped generating one of the most beautiful sprays of fish oil all over me, the kitchen counters, and the floors. I was hoping to greet Michael at the door in a saucy, sexy, sophisticated way. Instead, he will find me disheveled, with all the neighbourhood cats twirling around my legs and meowing on my shoulders.

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