Citizens, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca originated in the Italian city of Naples and employs a robust and spicy sauce made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and herbs, usually oregano and parsley but sometimes also basil. Puttanesca translates as “in the style of the whore.” The name actually derives from the Italian word “puttana” which means whore. Puttana in turn arises from the Latin word putida which means stinking.
As noted on foodreference.com:
Now I’ll bet your wondering how this tasty dish became associated with such sordid content. As is often the case when sifting through culinary history, there are multiple explanations. The first interpretation is that the intense aroma, (harking back to the “stinking” Latin definition), would lure men from the street into the local house of ill repute.
Thus, the Napolese harlots were characterized as the sirens of the culinary world. Three additional accounts all hinge on the fact that Puttanesca sauce is easy and quick to make. The first is that the prostitutes made it for themselves to keep the interruption of their business to a minimum. The second is that they made it for the men awaiting their turn at the brothel. And the final version is that it was a favorite of married women who wished to limit their time in the kitchen so that they may visit their paramour.
A spicy history for a spicy and delicious sauce – I hope you will give it a try, Citizens, as it is one of my favorite quick pasta dishes! My version is differentiated by its use of roasted tomatoes and a combo of roasted and fresh garlic as well as a touch of red wine, which I find adds a new level of flavor to the experience.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
6 large firm, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 flat anchovy fillets, minced, ideally from a glass jar (JH note – the best anchovies – by far – are the Ortiz brand, sold at Whole Foods)
1 t. hot pepper flakes
1 t. Tabasco sauce, or to taste
4 T. tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons red wine (optional)
2 T. capers, brine-packed, drained
8-10 Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh oregano, fresh parsley and fresh basil, to taste
1 pound dried Italian Spaghetti or try bucatini (spaghetti with a hole running along the length is especially good with this sauce!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss the tomatoes and 1 clove of the garlic in 2 T. of the olive oil in a large baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly charred. Remove and place tomatoes and garlic through a food mill into a small-sized bowl. Set aside.
Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 t. salt and let it boil until ready to add the pasta.
In a large sauté pan add remaining olive oil and heat until warm. Add the last two cloves of garlic and gently cook until soft. Add anchovies and mash with the back of a wooden spoon. Add hot pepper flakes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, optional red wine, capers, tabasco and olives and cook very slowly on medium heat, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted tomato sauce to the mixture and stir to combine, set to lowest heat. Lightly season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add pasta to boiling water and stir so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 9 to 10 minutes, or until firm to the bite.
Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.