Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.
A dish by any other name would still taste as spicy, salty, and savoury, with just the tiniest hint of sweet.
It is said that the oldest profession in the world was the inspiration for this mid 20th century dish. Used by a puttana, a harlot, prostitute, lady of the evening, or other words I’d prefer to refrain from using, to lure her subjects into her den of iniquity. Seducing them with the aromas of the sauce and the promise of more to follow.
Obviously, there are variations on this theme. Too numerous and some too outlandish to mention here, they run the gamut and are as fanciful as Naples first seductress, the Siren Partenope herself.
The most plausible explanation of this dish’s origins however, seems to have nothing to do with the oldest profession in the world. Rather, it is said, Puttanesca was the invention of a chef from Ischia, who prepared the dish on the fly for guests from the “crap” he had on hand in his pantry. “Crap” here, being an alternate use of the word puttana.
So pleased was he with his creation, that he incorporated it on his menu. Naming it Spaghetti in the style of, hence the “alla Puttanesca,” the rest as they say is history.
Short on ingredients and prep time, long on flavour. Count Olaf might have preferred beef, but I’m certain, Spagehetti alla Puttanesca will seduce you too.
2 – 14 oz Cans Peeled or Crushed Tomatoes
100 Grams Black Olives, Preferably Gaeta Olives
50 Grams Capers
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled
600 Grams Vermicelli, Linguini or Spaghetti
Heat a generous amount of Olive Oil over medium-high heat
Add the whole garlic, capers and olives (remove olive pits if desired)
Saute 3 to 5 minutes
Add tomatoes, peperoncino, and parsley and oregano to taste
Reduce heat to low and cook for 25 – 30 minutes
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the pasta al dente
Drain pasta and return to pot
Remove the garlic from the sauce
Test the saltiness of the sauce and add salt as needed
Add about 1/3rd of the sauce to the pasta and mix through
Put the pasta into a serving bowl and top with the remaining sauce
A native Neapolitan, Giuseppe Topo is a hairstylist and one of the owners of Noi, Naples only English-speaking salon. A passionate cook, when he’s not styling hair Giuseppe can be found in the kitchen cooking up one of his favorite Neapolitan dishes.
Find all of his great recipes at Cooking with Giuseppe!