Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, authentic Italian Recipe, talk about rich bold flavors with a punch of heat. This pasta dish will wow your tastebuds from beginning to end. Better have some bread on hand because the sauce in the plate shall not be wasted!
Love at first thought!
Believe it or not, this recipe was not inspired by my trips to Italy. It was quite a while ago, when I was watching this cook show on the Food Network. It was called "Bitchin Kitchen" with Nadia G. This program was on the quirky side with a little "REALLY!". However, it was entertaining and she absolutely had some pretty bitchin recipes if I do say so myself. Okay, let's get to the point!
On one program she made Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and maybe it was the way she said it with a kind of New York Italian rendition, or maybe the ingredients and flavor profile, the end result I was loving that pasta! Well, today I am sharing this foodie love with you, with a recipe brought to me by Nicoletta, so really authentic. Come on, let's rock this dish together, that I know will become a favorite of yours!
Ingredients for this Spaghetti alla Puttanesca:
Italian cooking is really about great quality simple ingredients, and here they are:
- Olive oil
- Crushed tomatoes
- Gaeta olives
- Red chili flakes
- Salt and pepper
Seasoning the pan!
This Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is all about flavoring, and there is no better way than to start with seasoning the pan. How do we do that, I am going to show you:
- Firstly, in a cold sauté pan we need to drizzle the olive oil, place in the garlic that you peel and press a bit to release that flavor into the oil.
- Secondly, a sprinkle of red chili flakes, and place the anchovies, olives, and capers into the pan. On goes the heat to a medium setting. You will not have to season at this point because the anchovies are going to do that for you!
Let's talk capers and olives!
If you do not know what a caper is, it is not from the sea, actually it is a berry that grows on bushes in between rocks in Italy more so in the Liguria, Puglia, Campania, and Sicily areas. They usually come either packed in a brine, or packed in sea salt. Personally, I like the capers packed in sea salt. They are more flavorful and plump after you rinse them in cold water to wash off the salt.
As for the olives, if you cannot find Gaeta olives, look for some of the small black olives in your Italian grocery store. If not, Kalamata olives will work. You don't want the black mission ones, you need that tartness to bring flavor to the sauce.
Back to the Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, authentic Italian recipe!
- All those flavoring ingredients are mingling together in the sauté pan. Furthermore, the anchovies are breaking up and melting, that's a good thing, means nothing but rocking flavor for sure!
- Time to add in the crushed tomatoes. Get that wooden spoon because we are going to make this sauce dance!
- Add some black pepper, and taste for salt. Add if needed at this point and stir again.
- Partially cover as we do not want some of that condensation water to go into the sauce and dilute it. Also we want the sauce to thicken up a bit. If it gets too thick, add some of the pasta cooking water.
A little bit about canned tomatoes!
I always use good quality products and for tomatoes it is the same. Usually look for organically grown, but also San Marzano, or tomatoes grown in the Naples area of Italy. One thing I hear a lot of, is the tomatoes in Italy taste amazing. I have one answer, the soil, "terra cotta", cooked soil. It brings so much sweetness into this red fruit. Don't be afraid to taste your canned tomatoes. Wait for that sweetness with a little acidity, and also the feeling of brightness and freshness in your mouth. When you find that, it is a keeper!
It is all about multi tasking!
Italian cooking on the most part is easy and fast. Usually while the sauce is simmering we are starting to bring our water to boil. Use a large pot, pasta likes to be able to move in the pot to cook evenly and on time. So here are the next steps:
- While our sauce is simmering nicely, check on it often and make sure it is not sticking to the bottom and burning, We want to get our water on boil. Always salt your water. I use coarse Mediterranean sea salt.
- A good spoonful, usually poured into the palm of my hand, and tossed in. I like to put lots of love into the food I prepare! Taste your water after the salt has dissolved. It should taste like a nice mild broth. Not too salty, just right!
- Time for the spaghetti to go into the boiling water. I grab the pasta and form a bundle in my hand. Then I twist it a bit and drop it into the pot. What will happen is you will get this beautiful 360 degree fan of pasta that will soften and slide into the water.
- Use a wooden fork to move the pasta in the boiling water, making sure it does not stick to the bottom. Cook the pasta for about a minute less that the required time on the package
The Don'ts of long pasta cooking
Do not, I mean do not, break the pasta. If you do, you will hear the screams of 10 million Nonna's resonate and shake the earth, lol. Well, not really, but it sounded good. However, yes, do not break the pasta! More so, don't overcook it, rinse it, or add olive oil to the boiling water. Big Italian No No's! This will take away from the flavor and the sauce will have no chance of uniting with the sauce.
Time to bring the pasta to the sauce together!
In true Italian tradition we never plate the pasta then place the sauce on top. We are all about love and flavor. We like to get the pasta into the pan all up in the sauce and let it develop flavor together.
- So our spaghetti has cooked for one minute before the required time. Scoop it out with a sieve and let drain a bit. Keep that pasta water, we are going to need some, maybe! Into the sauce pan it goes and with your wooden fork or spoon, toss the pasta so it gets all up in that sauce! If it looks too thick or dry, add a little of the pasta water, stir, and see until you get the sauciness you want.
The origins of la Puttanesca
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, authentic Italian recipe, which translates into "in the style of the whore", wow, passionate. This pasta originated in the Naples area. Some say it made its first appearance around 1844, but really saw its birth in the early 1900's in the "Touring Club Italiano's" "Guida Gastronomica D'Italia ", featuring recipes from Campania. There you have it, only in Naples, lol!
Enough chit chat, time to get down to some serious tasting
Like Lidia Bastianich would say: "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!" First of all, the aroma is just incredible, rich tomato combined with anchovy, caper, and olive flair. Got to have a swirl! In goes my fork and twirl twirl it goes.
Let's taste together! Wow, the pasta is perfect nutty, al dente! That sauce is incredible, so rich and full-bodied! I taste the sweetness of the tomatoes and combined with the saltiness and sea backdrop of the anchovies provides some delectable moments on the palate. Absolutely love what the capers and olives bring to the table here, nothing but level upon level of umami flavor! The bit of heat from the chili flakes gives our taste buds a little wake up call from the euphoric state of bliss it is in from all that is happening in this pasta dish!
All in all this Spaghetti alla Puttanesa authentic Italian recipe is a win win for me. Thank you Nadia G and Bitchin Kitchen for introducing me to this lovely Italian classic, miss your show! Thanks to you who have shared this moment in our kitchen. Remember, keep cooking with love, because all we need is love!
P.s. if you love pasta, try some of our other Italian classics like:
- Gnocchi alla sorrentina (cheesy baked gnocchi)
- Bucatini al Pomodoro with Tuna and Capers
- Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, oil, and chili peppers)
- Pasta alla Norma