Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

If you have been following this blog you’ll know that in terms of cooking my two loves are baking and Italian cuisine! So this weekend I decided to try out the curiously named Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. If you trawl the internet for this dish, you’ll find it variously described as whore-style pasta or slut’s spaghetti. Now, puttana literally translated from the Italian does mean a tart, but I cannot figure out why this dish is named so!
This dish has been adapted from Nigella Lawson’s sumptuously designed book Kitchen – Recipes from the Heart of the Home (2008). It occupies the pride of place amongst my recipe books and I love browsing through it, even when I’m not cooking!

The sauce for this pasta dish is a fiery red tomato sauce – the heat comes from red chilli flakes and capers. I used only chilli flakes since I didn’t have any capers on hand. 
The other main ingredient in this sauce is the anchovies. These tiny, oily fish impart a pungent flavour to the sauce, as well as contribute to the saltiness. I used a 50g tin of John West anchovy fillets in olive oil and retained the oil to make the sauce.
This recipe serves 3-4 people.

You’ll need:
How to:
  • Drain the anchovy fillets and reserve the olive oil. Chop up the fillets.
  • Put the water on boil for the pasta and add some salt. You don’t need to add any olive oil – that’s a myth.
  • Heat the reserved olive oil in a pan and add the anchovies. Cook them, pressing and pushing with a wooden spatula till the fish is almost dissolved in the oil.
  • Add the garlic and fry lightly.
  • Add the grated tomatoes and cook them down. Also add the red chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Add only half of the salt that you would normally use since the anchovies are quite salty.
  • Once the sauce is almost cooked, add the olives and stir them in. Turn off the heat and let the sauce sit for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, the water for the pasta should have started boiling. Add the spaghetti and cook as per packet instructions. Reserve ½ a cup of the starchy water and drain the spaghetti. Add a bit of olive oil and toss.
  • Mix the spaghetti and the sauce, adding just enough of the reserved water to the sauce to help it coat the spaghetti well.
  • Garnish with parsley.
Serve this dish with a side of a mixed salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. The sweetness of the balsamic vinegar complements the fiery spaghetti alla puttanesca beautifully. Buon appetito!

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