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Puttanesca - how's yours?


paul o' vendange
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Just curious how folks put together theirs...one of my favorite quick dinners, though it is "standard," curious for what your tweaks are. I do not simmer this thing, but depend on a healthy dose of hot olive oil to pick up infused flavor quickly. Basically, heat olive oil to below smoking, then toss in in quick succession of (moderately) crushed garlic, basil chiffonade, let them quickly work, whole olives (kalamatas, usually, but also gaeta, or alphonso), capers (with some juice - I know it's sacrilegious, but I do not use anchovies...so get some salt otherwise); let the brine liquid work for a small bit, toss in chili flakes, then prepared pasta (tomato) sauce. Flavors come together for only a small while, pour over pasta (usually, penne), and chow.

What's yours?

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Chris, weird for me that I don't use anchovies in this, as I love them generally; for some reason, it throws the palate out of balance for me, in this dish. After all is said and done, though, with a name like "puttanesca" and whole, discrete, big flavors, maybe "balance" is a bit of a ridiculous goal... :biggrin: I think it's one too many visits to "Shakey's Pizza" as a kid, with the little bones the stuff of puerile nightmares...

I like to use water (and milk, depending on what I'm doing) soaked/"blanched" anchovies, too, when wanting some of the character but not all the sharp bite...will try it here. Or, like caramelized onions and grey liver, perhaps I will let my childhood food demons go, and just do an honest puttanesca.

Thanks for the input so far, folks!

Edited by paul o' vendange (log)

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Don't the anchovies liquefy when you cook them? They do for me, regardless of being salt-packed or in oil.

In a true bit of culinary heresy, I used tobasco sauce in place of the chilies in mine. I made it the first time and realized I had no chilies anywhere, and then used the tobasco instead and I liked the smokey flavors and how it complemented the capers, olived, and anchovies.

And this will really call the wrath of the culinary gods on me, but I like putanesca sauce as a base for braising chicken.

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I'm like Chris and use a can of crushed tomatoes, chopped olives, and anchovies. As you need to cook the sauce for a bit longer with chopped tomatoes, the anchovies dissolve in as a taste rather than being a feature (Kevin72 makes this point). Reading through your recipe, have you tried adding the basil chiffonade just before serving? The residual heat will cook it without losing its delicacy of taste and the interplay between it and the tomatoes.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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On the anchovy, it is the taste itself (rather than any textural thing - the "Shakey's Pizza" comment was a joke, from my childhood memories) that is at issue, but as I say, I love (salt packed) anchovies generally. Like your idea of basil in at serving, often "sort of" do that on other things (e.g, see fishy below...halibut on ratatouille, pommes anna, red pepper coulis, basil oil, garnishes of nicoise and basil chiffonade), interesting to try. Between the first drop of garlic and plating is likely no more than 1 minute or so, as I work it that fast. First from "family meal" at a now-closed place in L.A., I've never shaken the love of this particular, rustic flavor combination...and the bite of "goodies" nested throughout the pasta.

Thanks for the idea!

halibut2resized.jpg

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I am a fan of rich, dark, salty puttanesca, and it is one of my absolute favorite foods. Personally, I think it just isn't puttanesca if you don't:

  • sauté onions and garlic until just this side of brown;
  • slide in a healthy dose of anchovies and sauté them until they break down;
  • add some oil-cured or kalamata olives, a handful of capers, and a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, lightly crushed with a wooden spoon and simmered until velvety and dark; and
  • pump in a final glug of olive oil near service.

Lightly sautéed tomatoes, no anchovies, little oil: that just ain't gonna do it for me.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Lightly sautéed tomatoes, no anchovies, little oil: that just ain't gonna do it for me.

OK, OK, I'll relent.

Oh, not on using unblanched anchovies. On the name. Penne Putain. A gentler, more L'ile de France cousin. :raz:

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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Très raffiné...

LOL - not two minutes ago my wife showed up with our boy, fresh home from school (and Trader Joe's, along the way)...with makings for...uh, yep. I had mentioned to her my pang for the stuff, and voila.

-her loot includes a tin of Cento anchovies. Seems the universe is conspiring to tell me something...

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I like to chop some of the capers and olives and add to the initial oil with the garlic chilli and anchovies (And I like to use a healthy glug of oil here too). I add whole/halved olives and either roughly chopped big, or whole baby capers at the end (I've played with some lemon zest at this point too).

In terms of alternative uses, I like it with grilled fish as well as pasta (An extra glug of oil and some lemon juice is good here to make it almost a dressing and to split slightly).

I also recently made the happy discovery that it goes tremendously well with cauliflower, both as dish in it's own right, or by adding cauliflower with the pasta (Let some blanched, or even previously cooked cauliflower cook with the sauce for the last few minutes).

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I sort of combined a recipe from a pasta cookbook by Flora and Robert Alda(Alan's dad)and a recipe from Parade magazine. I lot of times I will do that when I make something new--look up 3 or 4 recipes and take the features I like best from each. Naturally you don't do this for something like chiffon pie where precise measurements are important. But I've cooked enough that I usually have a feel for what will work. Capers, anchovies and red pepper flakes do seem to be a common denominator for this one though.

They all have colorful stories for how the recipe came to be called that. One says that prostitutes did not go out to do their marketing when respectable women were out, so they invented a recipe that doesn't call for a lot of fresh ingredients. On the Savage Nation, Savage claimed that they believed in the antiseptic properties of the garlic.

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A supermarket in the UK sells (Or at least used to) a jar of ready mixed olives, anchovy and capers, for the making of puttanesca (Or whetever else you fancy). The olives were to finely sliced, and hence dried out, and weren't great to begin with, but I quite like the idea, it would allow the flavours to mingle.

Good for people who wouldn' necessarly use a jar full of capers for anything else (I go through them pretty quickly myself!).

I ended up doing my own version a while back, mainly to reduve the number of 1/4 full jars of things hanging around in my fridge. Got used over the next few days, but I wonder how long you could keep it for? Is the 'mingling' a good thing? Or should the flavours be separate?

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Is the 'mingling' a good thing? Or should the flavours be separate?

That raises an interesting question, Carlovski. Many more more at home in Italian cuisine than I will chime in, I'm sure, but it does pique my interest.

One of the reasons I love this stuff is precisely because of the "surprise" in its several bites - texture and taste. My want, personally, would be much like my want in ratatouille, the preservation of the discrete character from each contributor. Not therefore a fan of "melded down" ratatouille, and I suspect that although it would still taste wonderful, I would myself prefer to keep puttanesca similarly "fresco."

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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My Italian mother explained that this was the dinner prostitutes made, quickly, before work; using what ever ingredients were found in the cupboard. Hence puttanesca is more of an approach than a written map.

What would necessarily be around: garlic, oil, anchovies, capers, red pepper flakes, a splash of wine.

What might be in the larder: fresh tomatoes, onions, olives, soprasetta,

It often sat before it was eaten because false eyelashes had to be applied, or a customer had arrived.

On the other hand if she was ready when it was ready it could be eaten a la minute.

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  • 2 months later...

I was amused to find this thread is still here. Earlier I asked my daughter what we should have for dinner. She said, "Spaghetti" and I said, "How about Putanesca?" She agreed so that's what it will be.

Anchovies melted into olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, red pepper flakes all tossed with hot, fresh cooked spaghetti. I'm very easy with the pepper flakes because she has a condition that can't handle very hot flavors. I just sprinkle a few more on my pasta at serving time.

The last jar of home canned tomatoes. We must do more this year.

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The puttanesca I made the other evening was so delish I am bursting to describe it. I started the usual way with oil, crushed garlic, a piece of chile (never flakes, and this was home-dried from Oretta's garden in Sabina), and maybe 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets over med-low heat. The oil was not my usual extra-virgin but what remained from a just-finished jar of very upscale sun-dried tomatoes from Puglia. The tomato component came from my freezer -- when I have leftover cherry or other small tomatoes, I roast them, put them through the mill, and freeze. The olives were olive paste from the fabulous oil producer in Sabina where we buy oil, and the capers (usually salt-packed from Pantelleria) were pre-minced in a jar we'd bought in Sardinia (Sardinian capers, of course). Both olives and capers, in whatever form, are added at the very end. The spaghetti was Martelli (extraodinary).

Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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