Updated: Aug 26, 2021
This is a simple recipe, incorporating ingredients that are probably already in your cupboard, but the reward is disproportionately high (recipe link). Use any pasta shape you prefer. The key to the unique flavor of a good puttanesca sauce is ensuring that the anchovies melt in the olive oil. I do recommend having peperoncini on-hand for this recipe and most pasta recipes on this blog. Peperoncini are ubiquitous in Italian kitchens and are often seen hanging outside houses in a sunny spot to dry. While Italians aren't typically keen on too much heat, many recipes in Lazio, Abruzzo, and the Italian South include a peperoncino or two for a little kick to pasta dishes. DiPasquale's in east Baltimore carries them in the canned food rack and they're quite good.
Pasta for 2
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 lg. cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes OR 2 whole peperoncini
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. capers
2 tbsp. olives, quartered (Kalamata, Leccino, or Taggiasca would do just fine)
14 oz. crushed San Marzano tomatoes
½ lb. pasta of your choosing (spaghetti alla chitarra pictured)
fresh basil for garnish
1---Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water “come il mare” (like the sea) when the water starts to boil.
2---Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan until fragrant. When fragrant, add the anchovies. Keep the pan and oil moving so that the anchovies break apart in the oil. Move the pan partially off the heat, and add the garlic, red pepper/peperoncini, and oregano. Keep the pan moving to prevent scorching the aromatics and let everyone assimilate for about a minute or two.
3---Add the tomatoes to the sauté pan and stir to incorporate. Reduce the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. If the pasta water is boiling, add pasta to the water. Cooking time obviously depends on the shape of the pasta. Most dried pastas take approximately 10 minutes to cook, but it’s best to pull individual noodles and taste for yourself. Remember: pasta should be a little al dente because it will finish cooking in the sauce.
4---While the pasta is cooking, add the olives and capers to the sauce, and keep the sauce simmering. When the pasta is al dente, use a spider strainer or hand colander to transfer it from the boiling water to the sauce. The pasta doesn’t have to be completely dry, in fact a little pasta water - with all that starch - is good for thickening the sauce.
5---Toss the sauce and pasta in the pan, and keep moving for about 2 minutes. Aeration and movement will evenly coat the pasta. The residual heat of the sauce will finish the pasta’s cooking process, releasing the remaining starch, and unifying the pasta and sauce through a beautiful, vaguely sexual, alchemy. Serve in a bowl and garnish with fresh basil. Dust the pasta with parmigiano reggiano (I prefer pecorino romano on puttanesca, but that’s for the truly insane).