Linguine puttanesca

Pasta patois

Originally appeared in the November 3, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

There’s something to be said for using your intuition in the kitchen.  But, more to the point, while there’s a need for precision in many culinary cases, what most cooks rely on when actually preparing food is eyeball accuracy—you have to cook with all your senses, and it’s perfectly fine to tinker as you go.  Read more after the jump:Take this week’s recipe.  Puttanesca has a rather bawdy, Italian translation (I’ll let you investigate further if you’re so inclined), but let’s just say it refers to style associated with women of ill-repute in the slums of Naples.  Culinary patois aside, this pasta classic reflects southern-Italian regionalism, and is a rustically unpretentious dish.

Puttanesca is typically “sugo”—a trinity of salty, spicy, and aromatic.  Saltiness is imparted from the anchovies and olives; a bit of spicy heat is delivered by the pepper flakes; and garlic rounds out the dish with pungent fragrance.

If you want to honor tradition, you should use spaghetti; but I find that linguine lends itself as a suitable substitute with a better “mouthfeel.”

So if you’re cooking with your sense, make your own adjustments—a little more anchovy, a pinch less pepper.  In short, make it your own (but keep the recipe’s title).

Linguine puttanesca

Serves 2

  • 4 ounces dry linguine pasta
  • As needed, olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thin slice
  • 3 anchovies, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • ½ cup chopped black olives
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dry oregano
  • ½ tablespoon small-chopped, fresh basil
  • ½ tablespoon small-chopped, Italian parsley
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Boil pasta in salted water.  Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil.  Add anchovies, allowing to brown and break down slightly; add garlic (don’t burn) and red pepper.  Add tomatoes, capers, black olives, dry and fresh herbs, and adjust seasonings.  Bring to a gently simmer (may need to also adjust consistency with a bit of water).

2.  When linguine is al dente, drain, and add to sauté pan.  Toss pasta with sauce and serve.

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