Pasta Puttanesca

February 14, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca is a chunky sauce of intense flavors that meld together perfectly – olives, anchovy paste, capers and hot red pepper.  You can either enjoy it as is, or mellow it out slightly by melting some goat cheese into the sauce.

I first came across Pasta Puttanesca in an Italian restaurant somewhere in Delaware.  At that point, I didn’t like olives, capers or anchovy paste, but this dish called to me anyway and I loved it enough to try reproducing it at home.  Over the years I’ve grown to love olives and capers(I’m still working on the anchovy paste), and moved up from just dumping in a can of black olives to using a mix of Kalamata’s, green and black olives.


(serves 4)

  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 2 sausages, sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, without calcium carbonate
  • 1 tbsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups mixed olives, pitted and halved
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 oz goat cheese (optional, but awesome)

In  a large bowl, crush the tomatoes with your hands.  You don’t need to be very thorough, since the heat will finish breaking them down, just make sure to squeeze any large pieces through your fingers.   This can be kind of fun and stress relieving.

Meanwhile heat up the oil in a large saucepan and saute the garlic and hot pepper flakes until fragrant, about a minute.   Then add the sliced mushrooms and the sausage(if using) and saute until the mushrooms begin to water.

Add the red wine and let it boil up, then add the tomatoes, anchovy paste and herbs.  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for twenty minutes while you cook the pasta.  You should use a shaped pasta that will hold a lot of sauce — like penne or campanelle.   If you’re skeptical about the anchovy paste, taste it now and add more red wine if it tastes too fishy.

Stir in the olives, then bring back up to a simmer and taste to adjust salt, pepper and acidity.  Too sweet?  Add some lemon juice and pepper.  Too acid?  Add some sugar.   Remove from the heat and stir in the capers.   At this point, remove any sauce you want to save for another meal and stir the goat cheese into the remaining sauce appropriate (1 oz per person) and then toss thoroughly with the pasta and serve.


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