This dish called pasta puttanesca, famously named for the fact that Italy‘s “ladies of the night” would place pots of it in their windows to tempt men into the bordellos, is just as fast and easy as the original and requires nothing more than some ingredients you probably have in your pantry already. This quick, intense dish should be salty, piquant and hot. Pasta puttanesca’s saltiness comes from anchovies and olives; the piquancy from the tomatoes and the effect of the capers; the heat from dried chilli flakes. Pasta puttanesca is not a genteel dish – it should in fact be a little coarse and the flavours should explode in the mouth. It is the best of all standby dishes, ready in minutes and made from common ingredients. In my opinion, pasta puttanesca will come out perfect if you use spaghetti, but you can use any kind of pasta, really.
1 pound spaghetti or linguine pasta
5 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice (preferably Italian)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
Pinch of sugar (optional)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped basil
Cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water, until pasta is barely “al dente”. While pasta is boiling, cook garlic, anchovy paste, red-pepper flakes, 1/2 tablespoon pepper and 1 tablespoon salt in a skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until fragrant and pale golden, which should take about 2 minutes.
In the meantime, purée tomatoes with juice in a blender. Add tomato purée to garlic oil along with olives and capers and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is ready. Stir in sugar if desired (optional, I usually don’t use it). Drain pasta and add to sauce. Simmer until pasta is al dente, for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle pasta puttanesca with fresh basil and serve!