I think by now my regular readers will have gathered that I’m a complete and utter Italiaphile. I love the country, the people (my grandma being one of them), and most of all the food. Despite it’s no doubt devastating effect on my (ever-growing) waistline, I have pasta two or three times a week and, as with most people I’m sure, I have my favourites that never fail to delight and satisfy in equal measure. Most are ready within 20 minutes – surely one of the major perks of pasta – and all are delicious.
No 1 on the list is Spaghetti alla Puttanesca which combines all my very favourite tastes of Italy: olives, capers, tomatoes, anchovies, and garlic. You can’t really go wrong with that line up, can you? As with most Italian dishes the flavours are simple, but the secret is getting the best possible quality ingredients. I use Kalamata olives, salted capers, the best quality Italian tinned tomatoes I can find, and De Cecco Spaghetti. Nothing that will break the bank, but just using these slightly more expensive ingredients makes such a big difference, I promise you.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
For two hungry people
- 2 fat garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 3 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
- dried oregano
- 1 dried chilli
- 2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed and chopped
- a good handful of black olives, torn or chopped in half
- a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
- 1x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 200g De Cecco spaghetti
- Salt & pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan, then reduce the heat and add the sliced garlic. Once the garlic has softened (being careful not to let it brown), add the anchovies, a good sprinkling of oregano and crumble in the dried chilli. Cook just for a minute or so, until the anchovies melt into the oil.
Add half of each of the chopped capers, olives and parsley, then stir in the chopped tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce has a nice thick consistency. This will probably take 15 minutes – enough time to get your spaghetti on (make sure it’s al dente).
Once the sauce has thickened, check the seasoning. It shouldn’t really need too much salt because the capers, olives and anchovies are all quite salty. Drain your pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add the remaining capers, olives and parsley to your sauce, before stirring in the drained pasta. Add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to loosen the sauce and give it a nice silky texture. Give the pasta a really good mix with the sauce to make sure the good bits (olives, capers, etc) are evenly distributed. Then finish with a little squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.