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Pasta alla Puttanesca 0

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Sahar

 

I have to admit, sometimes, in this wanna-be low-carb world, I just want to enjoy a big bowl of pasta. It’s quick, easy, satisfying, and filling. But, of course, as always and most importantly, delicious.

So, I’m going to introduce you to one of my & Husband Steve’s favorite pasta dishes. Pasta alla Puttanesca.

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca literally translates into “Whores’ Pasta”.  Its origin myths are a bit murky, but by most accounts, it’s a dish that dates back only about 50 – 60 years and was most likely created in southern Italy.

Some say the dish was invented by an Italian restaurateur who had an influx of customers near closing time one evening and threw together what he had left over – some olives, tomatoes, and peppers. Another origin story is that is was named “puttanesca” because it was easy and everything went into it. A third story is “decent” Italian housewives made this sauce with whatever they had laying around and threw it at ladies of the night while screaming “puttana!”.

I’m not so sure about the third one. But, who knows?

 

This is an easy dish.  From prep to eating, it takes no more than 45 minutes.

A few notes:

1.  Since there are no true hard and fast rules for this dish – except that it must have the tomatoes, olives, and peppers – you can add or remove ingredients as you like.  That being said, I like to think I’ve at least stayed with the spirit of the original recipe.

2.  Some recipes have anchovies, some don’t. If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, certainly omit the anchovies.

3.  It’s also very important to at least roughly chop the olives.  Even if you do buy olives that say “pitted”, pits will happen.  The chopping will help you find any before your guests or family do.

4.  Be sure to taste the finished sauce before adding any additional salt. The olives are in brine, the anchovies are salted, and the capers are either in brine or salt.  While you can rinse the excess saltiness off the olives and capers, some salt will still be there.

5.  Occasionally, I like to use some of the oil from the anchovy jar with the olive oil. I really like anchovies.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

It's important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they're pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It's better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

It’s important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they’re pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It’s better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

 

 

1 lb. spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 – 10 anchovy filets, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes (with their juice)

1 1/2 c. pitted black or mixed black and green olives, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed

Salt to taste

 

Parmesan, fresh grated

 

 

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and anchovies.  Saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

3.  Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want some of the liquid from the tomatoes to evaporate and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

 

4.  Take the skillet off the heat and toss the spaghetti in the sauce.  Taste for salt (you’ll very likely not need it).

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

 

Serve with a generous helping of Parmesan.

IMG_3085

 

Buon Appetito!

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca 0

Posted on August 30, 2013 by Sahar

Pasta (or Spaghetti) alla Puttanesca, otherwise known as “Whore’s Spaghetti” (although you don’t have to tell the kids that), is a recipe with a slightly murky origin story. One of the more popular origin myths was that it was made up by a cook in a brothel who had very little to work with, so threw what she could find into a pot, cooked it, and served it with spaghetti.

That’s the story I always heard, anyway.  Well, apparently, it’s not true.

Many signs point to the dish actually originating in the mid-20th Century.  The first known reference to “spagehetti alla puttanesca” in Raffaele La Capria’s Ferito a Morte (Mortal Wound), a 1961 Italian novel.

in 2005, a restaurant owner named Sandro Petti claimed he invented the recipe for “Puttanesca” in the 1950’s.

According to Wikipedia (and several other sources):

“The moment of inspiration came, when near closing one evening, Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. Petti was low on ingredients and told them he didn’t have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi (Make any kind of garbage),” they insisted. In this usage, puttanata is an Italian noun meaning something worthless. It derives from the Italian word for whore, puttana.

At the time, Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers; the basic ingredients for the sugo. “So I used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti,” Petti told Cuomo.

Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.”

Makes sense. Almost like the origin of Nachos.

The sauce on its own is called “sugo alla puttanesca” and the ingredients will differ slightly from region to region.  In Napoli, they don’t use anchovies.  While, in Lazio, they are used along with chile peppers.  However it’s made, it’s a very popular dish throughout Italy.

 

Now, to the recipe:

******************************

The main reasons I like this dish are its ease of preparation and its taste.  I’m an advocate of strong-tasting food and this sauce certainly fits that criteria.

And, yes. This dish is very efficacious.

As always, a few notes:

1.  Whatever regional variations there are for this dish, the constants always are olives, capers, and tomatoes.

2.  I prefer spaghetti with this dish.  However, you can use linguine, pappardelle, or fettucine as well.  You want to have a pasta that will stand up to the sauce.

3.  Be sure to rinse the capers and olives before you add them to the sauce.  Otherwise, the sauce will be like a salt lick.

4.  Make sure you buy the small capers, not the larger caperberries.

5.  Speaking of olives, save yourself some time and buy already pitted.  Also, be sure to buy brine-cured and not oil-cured.  Oil cured  olives are meant to be eaten out-of-hand.  They don’t really stand up to cooking.

6.  You can use any combination of olives you like.  I generally go with a mix of green and black.  If you can find them in bulk, great.  If you have to buy them in the jar, you’ll more than likely have to rinse off any seasoning included in the oil/brine in the jar.

7.  If you would like to make this sauce vegan or just don’t like anchovies, omit them.  For my part, though, the more the merrier.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 – 6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

3 tbsp. capers, rinsed

6 anchovy fillets, chopped

2 c. pitted olives, very roughly chopped

1 28-oz can tomatoes

Salt & Pepper to taste, very judiciously used

1 lb. pasta

Parmigiano Reggiano

Mixed olives. Roughly chopped.

Mixed olives. Roughly chopped.

Capers. Rinsed.

Capers. Rinsed.

Anchovies. Ready to be chopped.

Anchovies. Ready to be chopped.

 

 

1.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic just begins to brown.

Garlic and chile flakes sauteing. Smelling great, by the way.

Garlic and chile flakes sauteing. Smelling great, by the way.

2.  Add the capers and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Adding the capers.

Adding the capers.

3.  Add the anchovies and cook another 2 – 3 minutes, again stirring frequently.

Adding the anchovies.  They'll just melt into the sauce.

Adding the anchovies. They’ll just melt into the sauce.

4.  Add the olives.  Cook another 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the olives. Now things are really starting to look good.

Adding the olives. Now things are really starting to look good.

5.  Add the tomatoes.  Mix well.  Let the sauce just come to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook the sauce for 20 – 25 minutes until it thickens slightly.  Stir occasionally.

Adding the tomatoes. Now, it looks like a sauce.

Adding the tomatoes. Now, it looks like a sauce.

Once the sauce begins to bubble up, turn the heat down to medium-low.

Once the sauce begins to bubble up, turn the heat down to medium-low.

6.  Meanwhile, make the pasta according to the package directions.

**At this point you can do 1 of 2 things.  You can either save a cup of the pasta water just before you drain the pasta and use it if you decide to toss the pasta and sauce together (it will loosen the sauce so it will combine with the pasta more easily); or, simply drain the pasta and spoon the sauce over just as you get ready to serve.

In this example, I chose just to spoon some sauce over the pasta.

7.  After 20 – 25 minutes, remove the sauce from the heat, taste for seasoning, combine with the pasta however you choose, and serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

The sauce after cooking.  Notice how it's thicker.  If you decide to ass salt and/or pepper, do so judiciously.

The sauce after cooking. Notice how it’s thicker. If you decide to add salt and/or pepper, do so judiciously.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Buon Appetito!

Two Pestos 1

Posted on July 11, 2013 by Sahar

While I love to cook any time of year, unfortunately, it’s a little more difficult in the throes of a central Texas summer.  The thought of turning on the oven or the stove makes me want to stick my head in the freezer.  So, while it may not always be possible to avoid the extra kitchen heat, it can be minimized.

And one of those ways is making some pesto.

Pesto originated in Genoa in the northern Italian province of Liguria.  The name comes from Italian word pestare  (Genoese: pesta) meaning “to crush; to pound”.  It is traditionally made with garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and Fiore Sardo (cheese made from sheep’s milk).

The ancient Romans ate a paste called moretum, which was made by crushing cheese, garlic and herbs together. Basil, the main ingredient of modern pesto, likely originated in India and was first domesticated there. Basil took the firmest root in the regions of Liguria, Italy and Provence, France. The Ligurians around Genoa took the dish and adapted it, using a combination of basil, crushed garlic, grated cheese, and pine nuts with a little olive oil to form pesto. The first mention of recipe for pesto as it is known today, is from the book La Cuciniera Genovese written in 1863 by Giovanni Battista Ratto.

While pesto was introduced in the US is the 1940’s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.

(some information from wikipedia.org and thenibble.com)

The pestos I’m showing you today aren’t the traditional recipe that many have come to know and love.  While I’m very serious about traditional recipes, sometimes experimentation isn’t a bad thing.

Now, on to the recipes.

***********************************

A few notes:

1.  Splurge and buy the freshest ingredients you can.  And that includes buying imported cheeses.  While America makes many wonderful cheeses, we aren’t too good with hard Italian cheeses.  Since pesto is essentially a raw product, you want the best.

2.  I don’t recommend using oil-packed/cured sun-dried tomatoes.  They’re usually flavored and I can’t control the amount of oil in the pesto.  Plus, somehow, they always taste cooked. Buy plain sun-dried and you won’t be sorry.

3.  You’ll no doubt notice in the instructions that I use a food processor for these recipes.  It is simply for ease in preparation.  If you feel like going all traditional, go for it.  But, it’d be a safe bet to say those tomatoes would be a bitch to beat down with a mortar and pestle.

Also, I keep the processor running through most of the prep.  This helps greatly when adding the “harder” ingredients like the garlic and nuts.  If you add them to the bowl and then turn on the processor, you won’t get a fine or consistent chop, which is what you want.

4.  When I serve these pestos, I always have some extra cheese on hand, some minced parsley (for the sun-dried tomato) and some halved cherry tomatoes (for the cilantro).  You don’t have to have these, but I thought I’d pass it along.

5.  As we all know, pesto is good on so many other things than just pasta.  Spread it on bread, use as a dip for vegetables, top grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables.

6.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  I don’t recommend freezing.

Cilantro Pesto

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Toasted pine nuts. These aren't inexpensive, so watch them very carefully.

Toasted pine nuts. These aren’t inexpensive, so watch them very carefully. If they begin to small like popcorn when you’re roasting, you’ve gone too far.

 

4 -6 cloves garlic, depending on size

1/2 c. pine nuts, roasted (350F for 3 – 5 minutes)

-or-

1/4 c. raw, unsalted pistachios

1/4 c. walnuts

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c.  Romano cheese, fresh grated

1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, fresh grated

2 – 3 bunches cilantro, depending on size, large stems removed (It’s OK to have some stem. No need to pick the leaves.)

Juice of 1/2 lemon (approx. 1 1/2 tsp.)

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Salt & pepper to taste

 

1.  Have your food processor running.  Drop the garlic through the feed tube and chop. Add the pine nuts and pepper flakes.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

The garlic, pepper flakes, and pine nuts in the food processor.

Turn off the processor, remove the lid, and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Turn on the processor again and let the cheese mix in.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

The cheese has been added. I could spread this on toast at this point.

2. Again, with the processor running, push the cilantro down the feed tube.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

The trimmed cilantro. Seriously. Just make sure you discard any brown or slimy leaves. Oh, yeah. And wash it, too.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

Pushing the cilantro down the feed tube.

 

Add the oil and lemon juice.

Adding the oil.

Adding the oil.

Continue processing until the mixture becomes a paste.  Add more oil if you want a thinner pesto.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

3.  Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

*****

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Sun-Dried Tomatoes ready for their close-up.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Shredded Parmesan and Romano.

Toasted pecans.  Again, nuts aren't inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

Toasted pecans. Again, nuts aren’t inexpensive, so take care when roasting.

3/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed; see note above)

1/2 c. roasted pecans (350F for 5 – 7 minutes)

4 cloves garlic

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded

1/4 c. Romano cheese, shredded

1/4 c. olive oil, more if needed

Juice of 1 lemon (approx. 1 tbsp.)

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Place the tomatoes in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let the tomatoes sit for 20 minutes.

Soaking the tomatoes.  Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Soaking the tomatoes. Reserve some of the soaking liquid when you get ready to drain them.

Drain the tomatoes, reserving some of the soaking liquid. Set aside.

The soaked tomatoes.

The soaked tomatoes.

2.  Have a food processor running and drop the garlic down the feed tube.  Let it chop.  Add the pecans the same way.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Adding the pecans to the garlic.

Turn off the processor and add the cheeses, salt and pepper.  Again, process until everything is mixed.

3.  With the processor running, add the tomatoes down the feed tube.

Adding the tomatoes.

Adding the tomatoes.

Pour in the oil and lemon juice.  Turn off the processor and check for seasoning and consistency.  If the pesto is too thick, add a little of the soaking water  or oil and process until it becomes the consistency you like.

Mmm...

Mmm…

The most common way to serve pesto is over pasta.  So, cook your pasta of choice according to the directions.  Be sure to save some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta.

I generally like to place a serving of the pasta in a medium bowl, spoon over the amount of pesto I want, and begin to toss them together.  I’ll use some of the pasta water if I need to.

I’ll place the pasta on the plate, garnish a little, and serve.

The completely optional garnishes:  Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

The completely optional garnishes: Tomatoes for the Cilantro Pesto; Parsley for the Tomato Pesto; Cheese for both.

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #1

Serving Suggestion #2.

Serving Suggestion #2.

 

Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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