I’ve always found it so interesting that to the chef’s biological clock, dinnertime can be anywhere from 11 pm to 1 am. If you think about it, your busiest time of the day is when (almost) everyone else is winding down. And working in hospitality, it means when you work, you really WORK! So, arriving home at midnight after a long, gruelling service, you want comfort – and you want it quick! And after spending a whole night crafting and scrutinising every little detail of every plate you send out, there’s nothing better than preparing yourself a meal that you’ve, for lack of a better word, just thrown together. Spaghetti Puttanesca, in my mind, is the ultimate throw-together, hits-all-the-right-notes comfort food, and it’s the perfect dinner (or lunch) at times when we’re “still getting into the swing of things.”
As with so many Italian crowdpleasers, the Pasta alla Puttanesca hails from Naples, where it is thought to have emerged in the mid 20th century as a first course. A classic Puttanesca sauce is made with olives, capers, garlic, chili pepper, oregano, tomatoes, and olive oil. The Puttanesca purist (if there is such a thing) will tell you that the only pasta you’re supposed to have with it is linguine or vermicelli, but to me, anything goes – and nothing twizzles around a fork quite like spaghetti, which is so much a part of the fun.
The name, Puttanesca, is also interesting. Some believe it originated in the brothels of the Spanish Quarters during World War II (puttana means prostitute in Italian), but I think it comes from the casual way this dish is made – as it comes.
30 ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
about 20 capers
125 g pitted black olives
5 ml dried oregano
2 x 140 g tins chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
500 g spaghetti
grated parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, anchovies, capers, black olives and oregano and fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and let it cook uncovered for at least 20 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the back of the packet.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss it through till the pasta is covered in sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.