Vermicelli alla Puttanesca
Due to the name, Puttanesca, many believe this sauce has some type of connection to prostitutes as “Puttana” means just that in Italian. However the name came about one evening in the early 1950s on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples. Architect Sandro Petti was entertaining a group of friends when they asked him to rustle up something to eat as they were absolutely starving. However he told them he didn’t have much left in the kitchen and they would have to go somewhere else to get something to eat.
One of his friends exclaimed ‘Don’t worry Sandro, just make us a “puttanata qualsiasi”’, which roughly translated means a slightly more vulgar version of “any old thing”. Sandro duly threw together a sauce consisting of the very limited ingredients in his larder i.e. a few tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, olive oil and some oregano. The recipe today usually includes some anchovies, chilli and parsley.
After the success of the dish that evening, Petti added it to the list of starters on his menu calling it Puttanesca as Puttanata seemed a bit vulgar. Tomato should only colour but not dominate the sauce allowing all the other flavours to come through. As is true for Italian cuisine in general, less is more.
Recipe: (Serves 4)
400g chopped tomatoes , tin
2 anchovies , drained and chopped
2 garlic cloves , thinly sliced
1tbsp capers , chopped if large
Pitted green olives , sliced
Large pinch dried chilli flakes
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley , roughly chopped
1. Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Tip in the tomatoes, capers, anchovies, olives and chilli. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened slightly.
4. Toss spaghetti with the sauce and parsley and serve. Yummy!
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