“Puttanesca” means “whore” or “tart” in Italian. It originated in Naples and that is where I ate it first back in 2006. Damien and I paid an overnight visit to Naples as we traveled between Rome and Sorrento and we really enjoyed our visit. It is a gritty town that pays no heed to tourism and I must say I loved that. We had pizza for lunch (has to be done in the home of pizza) and I had spaghetti puttanesca for dinner. It was so delicious that I had to find the recipe when I got home. It is said to have gotten it’s name as it was a cheap dish the working girls of Naples could knock up from the cupboard between tricks.
Besides the pizza and the pasta, two other memories stand out from that visit. One was that the drivers in Naples are even worse than those in Rome and never stop at pedestrian crossings. And the second was the great futsal competition we watched in one of the towns many piazzas. Local kids and teenagers took turns to play and it was magical.
Puttanesca gets it’s intense flavour from the black olives, capers and anchovies. The sauce can be made in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. Don’t worry if you don’t like anchovies, in this they break down completely and you won’t know they are there but they add a lot to the flavour.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 12 black olives pitted
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 jar passata
- 400-500 g spaghetti
- Cut the garlic into thin slices.
- Roughly chop the anchovies and olives and crush the capers.
- Heat the olive oil and add the garlic.
- Cook the garlic very gently until just beginning to colour, then add the anchovies and stir to dissolve.
- Stir in the chilli flakes, then the olives and capers, and turn up the heat slightly until you can hear them sizzling.
- Add the passata and stir well, then simmer vigorously for about five minutes, or until the pasta is done.
- Check the seasoning.
- Cook the spaghetti and add to the sauce being sure to add a ladle of the cooked pasta water. The salty, starchy water not only adds flavor but helps glue the pasta and sauce together; it will also help thicken the sauce.