Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's Cooking: Sugo alla Puttanesca

Welcoming Summer 2012 with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Sugo alla Puttanesca by the FatGoddess
Spaghetti alla puttanesca

March 28 - It is now summer in the Philippines.  Although it started out with heavy rains, I am officially welcoming my Summer 2012 with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, my own version of Spaghetti (due to popular demand from family and friends, I will do another blog about this) and a whole bunch of herbs in our new herb garden. (I bought my herbs from Mamabels Home Garden)

I will give you a hint on how I love food. If it is that gastronomic fireworks display moment in my mouth, then that dish or food is up there in my pedestals (alongside pepper, salt, cheese, spices, etc.).
Spaghetti alla puttanesca takes one slot in one of my great pedestals. (Don’t look for my pedestals in my house, it’s nowhere to be found).  It is easy to prepare, fast to cook and a perfect dish for anyone who is ready to grab a heavy meal.

Puttanesca for me is al dente pasta swimming in olive oil and a generous pool of sauce with crushed, diced ripe tomatoes with salty-sour capers bursting with the olives in your mouth tinged with the minced red chili peppers and salty crushed anchovies.

While doing this blog, I am watching Two Greedy Italians, one of my favorite food and travel shows ever. Genaro and Antonio are really spontaneous and funny. So true to these Two Greedy Italians’ quest of the ultimate Italy and its good food, I also wanted to know more about the history of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.

Puttanesca's history is very interesting indeed. Several accounts existed around the mid-20th century and the ingredients are very typical of the kitchens of Southern Italy. This pasta's earliest mention was in a 1961 Italian novel and according to the Professional Union of Italian Pasta Makers it also became popular in the 1960s.

Old Map of Italy
Some Italians say that SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA, which literally means "whore's style spaghetti", is a favorite meal of the prostitutes hence the name. Another source also referred that patrons of the earlier mentioned were popping in at times that they do not have time to prepare any food. So they just prepare something fast and easy with what is available. Good enough to serve, to take care of the client and to enjoy it after the... uhmmm meetings.

Several websites discuss the inventors of the dish and how the dish was created. And all forks lead to Sandro Petti, co-owner of a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot Rancio Fellone. One story says that this restaurant owner was about to close his restaurant when clients showed up. He told them that he did not have anything to serve them but these clients were simply hungry and said, "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi!" - Just cook us anything! So this owner used what he had in his kitchen that night and created the Puttanesca sauce!

The sugo alla puttanesca (sugo means sauce) is cooked in so many different ways, different from one person to another but it has 3 common traits: little salty from anchovies, spicy from the peppers and fragrant from the garlic and oregano. It can be served with traditionally with spaghetti but penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli can be used too.

Spanish Oregano has tiny leaves and are very aromatic.
I just bought this today and
I love how it adds flavor to the sauce.
Tip: If you don't have thyme, you can use the
youngest leaves as alternative.

A lot of stories for this oooh-so yummy sauce, I love to hear and read about the many facets of this food. Just like in Negros island where I am from, we have great food and each has its own stories. Some food come from specific families or clans that they become synonymous with the dish.

Food is not just food for me. It is something made by loving hands of great cooks disguised as our my mothers, Papas (fathers), lolas (grandmothers), lolos (grandfathers), yayas (nannies), tias and tios (aunts and uncles), brothers and sisters. And everyone and anyone who heats up their pots and pans to fill our tummies and warm our hearts.

Okay now, let me share with you how I make my own version of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.


Anchovies less than PhP 100.00 (less than US$ 3.00),
Green olives (sorry I cant find black olives since it is not locally produced) and Capers in vinegar 

1 kg pasta
½ cup oil
2 – 3 tbsp. salt

  5 tbsp. olive oil
     1 clove of garlic, minced
     2 onions, minced
     5-9 pieces of anchovies
     black pitted olives (you can also use green), drained and sliced
     capers, wash if salted or drained if preserve in vinegar
5 pieces of red hot chili peppers (or you can use 1 teaspoon of red chili powder)
     400 grams ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
     Some oregano, finely chopped

How to cook:
1. Cook the pasta in boiling water or prepare according to package instructions. Don’t forget to season the pasta with salt and add oil, and, you can add ground black pepper or a sprinkle of ground oregano and ground basil if you’d like.Very important: set aside the pasta water so you can use it for your sauce.
2. Heat olive oil in a deep sauce pan and cook the garlic until brown. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes in medium heat.
3. Add the anchovies, crush it with a fork.
4. Prepare a handle of everything: olives, parsley and capers. Set aside some for the serving later.
5. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, chili and some oregano. Add in a little of the pasta water and cook for 10 minutes in medium high heat to reduce the sauce, stirring from time to time. Add some parsley. Season with salt and pepper. (Special note from FatGoddess: When cooking anything, taste and season along the way. Taste, taste and taste. Enjoy the aroma from the garlic, tomatoes, olives. It’s like smelling the flowers, stir in a little love.)
6. Finally, toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve with freshly chopped parsley and some olives, capers and freshly ground pepper. You can add a few more bits of crushed anchovies.

I just love Parmesan Cheese!
Note: I found out that some believe that it is against tradition to add cheese, but I usually “snow” it with parmesan.

Enjoy life!


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