Puttanesca sauce is the simplest and most famous condiment in Italian cuisine. Simple, direct, typically Mediterranean flavors take us to Campania and Lazio, where anchovies, tomatoes, garlic, and olives are the basis of tasty and sunny cuisine.
History of the puttanesca
There are many imaginative myths about the birth of pasta alla puttanesca, but no certainty.
Some have theorized that the name derives from the fact that it was a dish served to prostitutes in the Spanish neighborhoods to restore them from the night’s fatigue.
Others that a Neapolitan cook cooked an “a super ordinary dish,” improvising with the few ingredients he had available. Not that it matters anyway.
The first evidence of this recipe can be found in the book by Raffaele la Capria, where a character of him in the novel “Wounded to death” talks about “spaghetti alla puttanesca as they are made in Syracuse.”
There are two recipes for the puttanesca sauce, which differ in a minimal variant: the Lazio one, which involves anchovies, absent in the Neapolitan one. For the rest, there is not much to say, except that you need very fresh and top-quality ingredients to keep the persuasive fragrance of the sauce intact.
Ingredients for an excellent puttanesca sauce (4 servings)
- 1 pound of fresh chopped tomatoes
- a tomato paste spoon
- 4 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 salted anchovies
- 3 scoops of salted capers
- 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
- pitted black olives
- salt, fresh ground pepper
- 14 oz of spaghetti
How to make the perfect puttanesca sauce like an Italian
Before starting cooking, wash anchovies and capers and dry them with a paper towel. Chop the capers. In a large pan, put the oil, lightly fry the garlic, add the anchovies, and melt them with a wooden spoon.
Keep the heat low, put it inside the capers and black olives, then tomatoes, a splash of tomato paste, and let it cook until it becomes a brow, thick sauce.
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with black pepper and salt if necessary.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water. Drain the spaghetti a few minutes before they are cooked, put them in the sauce with some cooking water, and let them cook for a couple of minutes.
Chop the parsley and sprinkle it over the spaghetti. Delight your guests.
Tips to make the perfect puttanesca sauce
Salt, keep an eye on it. Don’t put too much salt in the water. The sauce is salty enough. In some recipes, you can find a splash of butter, don’t do that. It adds a fatty texture that is not welcome. Butter comes from north Italy, this is a recipe from the Lazio-Campania zone, and your cholesterol will thank you. Moreover, black olives, capers, and anchovies have a slightly bitter undertone that would be muffled and trivialized by the butter.
Don’t fry the garlic. It makes it bitter. Use high heat when you add the tomatoes just to dry them and make the sauce thick, not before.
You can use this sauce to season spaghetti, penne, paccheri, and a lot of pasta. It’s also suitable for a filet of salted cod (baccalà). If you add a bit of raisin and pine nuts, you have a perfect Baccalà alla Napoletana sauce recipe.
What wine goes well with pasta alla puttanesca?
We should pair a light red with soft tannins. You know that tannins and salt do not get along, so pay attention. Light and super tasty Sauvignon Blanc from Martin Teusch winery is a good choice.
If you want to pair a cocktail, Mojito is the chosen one!