Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Region: Italy, Campania-Naples
Category: Pasta with Vegetables
This famous Neapolitan pasta dish, it seems, was invented after World War II. Puttanesca derives from a vulgar word for “prostitute.” It is said that Neapolitan harlots would entice customers with plates of their favorite pasta. That story may be fanciful given its other names. Vittorio Gleijeses in his 1977 book A Napoli si mangia cosi’ tells us that the dish is also known as alla provenzale, alla martinique, alla marinara, and alla bonne femme. The Italian culinary authority Vincenzo Buonassisi suggests that the dish arose from the post-World War II chaos on Ischia, while Paula Wolfert relates a story that respectable women served the dish to the men with whom they were having affairs. In fact, the Neapolitan culinary authority Jeanne Caròla Francesconi claims that the name is a post-World War II invention of the artist Eduardo Colucci. If you want a hotter sauce, crumble the chile.
[photo: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 finely chopped
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, drained, and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped if large
20 imported black olives, pitted and cut in half
1 large dried red chile
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
12 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil with the 2 crushed garlic cloves over medium-high heat until they begin to turn light brown, about 4 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic.
2. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, chile, oregano, black pepper, and chopped garlic. Cook, stirring almost constantly, over medium-high heat until the tomatoes are a bit thicker, 7 to 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, salt abundantly, and add the pasta. Drain when al dente.
4. Reduce the heat of the sauce to low and add the anchovies and parsley and simmer 2 minutes. Discard the chile. Transfer the spaghetti to the casserole with the sauce and toss well. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and serve.