Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back to the Basics: Puttanesca

[poot-tah-NEHS-kah] The name puttanesca is a derivation of puttana, which in Italian means "whore." According to one story, the name purportedly comes from the fact that the intense fragrance of this sauce was like a siren's call to the men who visited such "ladies of pleasure." Another story just states that as prostitutes rarely had time to cook, this was their standard throw-all-the-left-overs-in-a-sauce meal.

Either way, puttanesca is a staple at Chalet J, as I almost always have the ingredients on hand even if it's grocery day. I whipped up this one at Krysten's last week:

This one involved what was left over in her fridge, which was fettucine noodles, grape tomatoes, spinach, red onion, green olives, garlic, and tomato sauce, and it was really good, but here at my house I usually make it a little something like this:

Throw a couple of swirls of olive oil in your skillet. Set your stove to medium high heat. After the oil gets hot you can back it down to medium. Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic and about a half of a white or yellow onion, chopped. Stir occasionally, until onions start to get translucent. If I have mushrooms I will add them at this point and cook them until almost done as well. I cheat with this dish and add a can of mostly-drained Del Monte Diced Stewed Tomatoes (I always keep the kind with basil and oregano; they're delicious, cheap, and time-saving, and the only thing in there that I wouldn't add myself is a little corn syrup). If you want to use your own stewed tomatoes, I would stir in fresh basil and oregano right before serving. Once that gets bubbling, I add a small can of plain tomato sauce, a small can of sliced black olives, drained, and about twice that many green olives (I always have olives; if I have Queens I will slice them as well; if they're the tiny ones I will either halve them or leave them whole). Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer while you cook your pasta. Salt and pepper to taste and serve with freshly grated parmesan or another hard cheese, and some fresh basil, torn or chiffoned (roll up a few leaves into a cylinder and cut into thin ribbons).

There are obviously many variations on a basic puttanesca; I've been known to add celery, carrot shreds, whole garlic cloves, a squeeze of anchovy paste, pearl onions, Italian sausage (cooked and drained), capers, kale, and many other ingredients. My parents ruin it with add in green peppers. If it gets too thick, add more sauce, a bit of chicken broth, or dry white wine; too watery, add a bit of tomato paste. Enjoy!


Nerissa said...

I've never actually made puttanesca although I always meant to try it out. Are those fettucine noodles from fresh or from dried? They look so plump and oodly that I'd venture that they were from fresh.

iamchanelle said...

wow, jamie. hats off to you for resourcefulness and yummyness!

love the last pic...hee!

hello jamie: said...

the noodles in the picture were actually leftovers already cooked that I re-heated in the microwave, hee! I've never actually done that myself but they tasted just fine (I added a little water and nuked 'em covered). I'm guessing they were dried... Krysten?

krysten said...

yes, dried.