Apart from the obsession with the perfect pizza, during my journey of discovering the secrets of the authentic Italian kitchen, I have mainly been trying to cook dishes previously unfamliar to me. However, today I yearned for a reunion with an old friend of mine: spaghetti alla puttanesca.
I had some new Marks & Spencer’s linguine in my cupboard to be tested. Although Misters Marks & Spencer do not sound exactly like the most authentic pasta makers, their linguine really was quite delicious (and in fact produced by some Signor/ Signora named Felicetti). One of the great mysteries in life for me though is how there can be so vast differences between different brands of pasta. It is really just flour and water after all. Baffling.
In addition to these important philosophical questions, for me another challenge with spaghetti alla puttanesca is capers. As they are something that I do use but less frequently, I am never 100% certain whether I have them available at home when shopping for the ingredients. As a result, I may soon have to dedicate an entire shelf in my kitchen cupboard for jars of capers. (I hope that none of my more organised friends who wouldn’t dream of hitting their local supermarket without a carefully prepared Excel spread sheet -based shopping list will read this.)
Anyway, with my improving Italian skills, I now investigated whether the authentic Italian way of making this dish (e.g. this, this and this) differs from the ones that I have earlier used. It seems that there are no big new secrets to unveil on this one. There are only some slight differences between the recipes which I guess are matters of taste when it comes to the amount of e.g. chilli, capers, anchovy and olives. But when the basics of this dish are fab to begin with, big new secrets are really not that necessary – or as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
400 g spaghetti
400 g chopped tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons tomato purée/ passata di pomodoro
3-4 anchovy fillets
100 g black olives, sliced
a pinch of dried chilli/ 1 fresh chilli
1-2 teaspoons capers
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
Pour a sufficient amount of water for your pasta into a kettle and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and the spaghetti.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, anchovies and chilli and stir until the anchovy fillets have dissolved in the oil. Stir in the tomatoes and the purée and let the sauce cook for five minutes. Mix in the olives and continue cooking the sauce for another 5 minutes. In the meantime, drain your spaghetti al dente. Add the capers into the sauce, followed by the spaghetti and a couple of tablespoons of its cooking water. Stir well and let the dish simmer and rest for 1-2 minutes. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to your taste.