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Friday, June 15, 2012

Pasta alla Putanesca...spicy and saucy!

Ok so I had to do a post for the love of Pasta alla Putanesca, one of my favourite Italian hot numbers. Despite its rather controversial translation as “whore’s spaghetti”, there is no wrong done in loving this dish, believe me. The story goes that back in the day, the “working girls”, who were as strapped for time as they were strapped in their late-shift “get-up”, would prepare this meal for their hungry family by throwing together the staples found in most Italian kitchens – then and now. This pasta dish captures the usual suspects - olive oil, garlic and tomato but the sauce gets saucier with the addition of chilli, capers and black olives, in a background hit of pungent anchovies. I salivate as I type and a thought crosses my mind that if this is what the “putanesci” conjured when they were in a hurry; imagine what they cooked on their days off.
The anchovies disappear into the sauce as it cooks so if you are not fond of them you would not even know they are there. I have opted to use pickled chillies, as the hot and sour hit is much so a favourite, but substituting with dried chilli flakes wouldn’t stray too far from the intended spicy taste – make it as hot or not as you want. This is a quick dish to make and in the time it takes to boil and cook the spaghetti, the sauce is ready waiting to be folded through – and you can get back to turning tricks – as they did!
Ingredients, serves 4

400g x Spaghetti,
2 tbsp x Olive Oil
8 x Anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 cloves x Garlic, crushed
3-4 Pickled Chillies (or a spoon of chilli flakes

400g can x Tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp x Capers, rinsed and drained
200g x Black Olives, pitted (Kalamatas, although Greek are my preference)
Parsley, a small handful, chopped for garnish
Parmesan cheese, sprinkled if you fancy!

Get a large pot of water on the stove and drop the spaghetti into it once it’s at a rolling boil
In a deep skillet or frypan heat the olive oil gently and add the diced anchovies
Use the back of a heatproof spoon to mash the anchovies into the oil as they start to disintegrate
Add the garlic and the chilli and stir to combine for about a minute
Raise the heat and add the canned tomatoes, capers and black olives
Allow the sauce to simmer gently for about 8 minutes

The spaghetti should probably be reaching the desired al dente doneness that it needs to be at by now (approx. 12 mins boiling)
Pour about ½ a ladleful of the pasta water into the sauce and mix well while sauce thickens slightly
Drain the spaghetti into a colander then straight into the sauce while it is hot
Use a fork or tongs to fold the sauce through evenly

Add a little splash of olive oil then garnish with parsley, extra chilli flakes and a dusting of parmesan

Serve with a nice glass of white wine as you may need a chilled drop to cool your tongue on this hot dish!

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