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Cook: Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is a Southern Italian dish made usually with spaghetti and a tomato sauce that packs a punch.  It also has a somewhat…spicy…story linked to it.  It is said that the…erm…. women of the night, in Naples, made this sauce to lure their gentlemen callers forth.  So, there’s that.

Lively history aside, I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for a while.  I used to watch Rachel Ray when I had cable and the luxury of watching the Food Network all day long, and it seemed like she was always making some version of Puttanesca sauce.  However, this was when I thought anchovies were gross.  I’ve since come into the light, and know that anchovies are incredible, so Puttanesca was no longer off limits.

The sauce is incredibly simple.  I used this recipe as a guideline, but ended up changing most of the amounts of the ingredients.

Let’s do this.

Pasta Puttanesca (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 box thin spaghetti
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (but I wanted more.  Next time I’ll use three, maybe four)
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pitted chopped Kalamata Olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (I probably used 1/2 to 1 whole teaspoon.  This sauce is supposed to be a little fiery, but by all means, this is for you.  Not me).
1 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

First thing I did was chop up all the things I needed.  After reading the recipe, I predicted that things go pretty fast after you saute the garlic, and burnt garlic is not good, so I wanted to be ready.  I minced the garlic, chopped up the olives and the parsley, and had the capers, anchovy paste, and oregano at the ready.

Here’s some of it:

I think that photograph is kind of psychedelic.  It’s a little blurry, a little twisty, and it reminds me of tie-dye, man.

After I prepped all the ingredients, I heated the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat, then sauteed the minced garlic for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Then I added the parsley, olives, capers, red pepper flakes, oregano, and anchovy paste and cooked for about 1 more minute.  I don’t have a picture of this because a minute is fast.

Then I added the can of tomatoes.  By the way, San Marzano tomatoes usually have a leaf or two of basil in them.  Did I tell you that?  I hope you all weren’t surprised to find a green something-or-other in your tomatoes.  Well, now you know.  When I’m making plain ol’ tomato sauce, I’ll leave it in, but for this, I took it out.

The tomatoes are whole, remember?  So you’ll have to break them up with your spoon.  Simmer this for about 20 minutes, while your pasta water is coming to a boil and your spaghetti is cooking until al dente.

Then chop up some fresh arugula.

Let’s talk about arugula for a minute.  I first had this peppery and wonderful green while eating studying in Italy.  I thought it was novel, and was so excited to see if they had it in my grocery store at home.  Turns out, I had missed the memo.  Arugula had been all the rage of foodies for a while.  I fear it’s becoming synonymous with food snobbery, but, can I say that I just love it so much.  I could eat arugula leaves as a snack.  And I may have, while waiting to add them to my sauce.  You’ve probably already had arugula, but if you haven’t please do so.  Immediately.

When the spaghetti was done cooking, I drained it, then added the sauce to the now empty pot.  Then I threw the arugula into the sauce.

Then I poured the hot spaghetti over the arugula.  I didn’t want to cook the arugula, just wilt it into the sauce, so that it would keep most of it’s delicious, distinct flavor.

I tossed to combine, then served in a bowl with Parmesan cheese and a little more fresh chopped parsley.

This sauce is salty and briny from the olives, capers, and anchovy paste, spicy from the red pepper flakes, and the sweetness of the tomatoes ties it all together.  It’s so complex and satisfying.  Definitely a keeper.

And then there’s it’s “storied” past.  An all around great meal, if you ask me.

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