According to the NYTimes website, there are almost as many explanations for the origins of pasta puttanesca as there are ways to make it. Ostensibly a sauce invented and made by prostitutes, it was designed to lure customers with its powerful aroma. No need to patronize a bordello though, you can make this summer version in the confines of your own abode.
The basis is a garlicky tomato sauce which is brought to a high level of flavor by the addition of anchovies, capers and olives. Red pepper flakes make things even better. The whole process is ridiculously easy. Even if you’re not an anchovy fan, don’t omit them, they are a key component in the overall flavor profile.
Cook’s Illustrated’s version of fresh pasta puttanesca uses grape or cherry tomatoes, which are excellent in summer and among the best variety of tomato available year-round. To retain fresh tomato flavor, purée and drain them, after which their juices get cooked down briefly, while the pulp is added at the end of cooking.
I did make a few alterations. First and foremost, I reduced the amount of pasta by half, using only 8 ounces—we tend to prefer saucier finishes. In addition, I incorporated the mixed variety of grape tomatoes which resulted in a lighter colored sauce. Next, I increased the garlic and olives by about 50%; and added grated parmesan as a final topper. The dish was packed with flavor!
Summer Pasta Puttanesca
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ pounds grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 pound campanelle pasta
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped coarse
- 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and minced
- ½ cup minced fresh parsley
- Grated parmesan for garnish, optional
- Combine oil, garlic, anchovy paste, pepper flakes, and oregano in bowl.
- Process tomatoes in blender until finely chopped but not puréed, 15 to 45 seconds.
- Transfer to fine-mesh strainer set in large bowl and let drain for 5 minutes, occasionally pressing gently on solids with rubber spatula to extract liquid (this should yield about 3/4 cup). Reserve tomato liquid in bowl and tomato pulp in strainer.
- Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add campanelle and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain campanelle and return it to pot.
- While campanelle is cooking, cook garlic-anchovy mixture in 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add tomato liquid and simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, 2 to 3 minutes. (This step took nearly 8 minutes in my case.)
- Add tomato pulp, olives, and capers; cook until just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in parsley.
- Pour sauce over campanelle and toss to combine, adding reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Season with salt to taste; add grated parm if using. Serve immediately.