Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Here is Wednesday's recipe. This is one where you want a nice hot dinner but only have a half hour to get it on the table. This recipe uses spaghetti but almost any pasta will do. The secret is in the sauce or sugo alla puttanesca. If you are interested about learning more about the history of the sauce and how it may have gotten it's name click on the link to Wikipedia below.

Spaghetti Puttanesca

This is a very traditional dish and the cool thing is that the pasta and sauce cook in just about the same amount of time. It is gutsy and full of flavor and on the whole a pretty cheap meal.

4 medium cloves garlic , minced to paste or pressed through garlic press (You should wind up with about a TBLSP)
Kosher salt
1 pound spaghetti (I use whole wheat which makes it a little healthier)
2 - 3 TBLSP olive oil
1 TSP red pepper flakes
4 TSP minced anchovies (about 8 fillets) Mashing these up with a fork works too.
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved
3 tablespoons capers , rinsed
1/2 cup black olives (such as Gaeta, Alfonso, or Kalamata), pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh flat or Italian parsley leaves

Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in large stockpot. While your water is coming to a boil, mix garlic with 1 tablespoon water in small bowl and set aside. When the water is at a rolling boil, add 2 tablespoon salt and pasta; stirring to make sure all the pasta separates. Immediately heat oil, garlic mixture, red pepper flakes, and anchovies in large skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until you can smell the garlic but not it doesn't brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the drained tomatoes and simmer until it thickens a bit, maybe 8 or 10 minutes. Your pasta should be almost done now.
Test a piece of pasta by giving at a bite, it should be al dente which means it will still have a bit of resistance and not be mushy. Drain the pasta in a colander but don't rinse it. Return the pasta to the pot and add 1/4 cup of the reserved tomato juice and toss to combine. Turn back to your sauce and stir in the capers, olives, and parsley. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine, you might have to add a little more tomato juice to moisten and at this point I usually drizzle another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the top. Serve immediately. If you want to be extra fancy you can serve some grated Regianno Parmigiano on the side and don't forget the crusty bread and red wine.

If you really want to have a garlic fest here is a technique that makes a nicely flavored garlic bread from fresh garlic but eliminates that raw harsh bite that fresh garlic brings. Peel 4 or 5 cloves of fresh garlic and heat them in a small saute pan for a few minutes until they just begin to show some brown spots and you can begin to smell the garlic. Careful not to burn them. Crush them with a fork or put them through a garlic press. Mix them with a stick of softened salted butter and use this to spread some nice slices of Italian or French bread. I sometimes sprinkle with a little grated parmesan as well. Carefully run these under the broiler making sure you toast both sides. The small heating of the garlic takes away all the harshness but leaves the full bodied taste of garlic.

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