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Pasta alla puttanesca
In Italy, una puttanesca is a prostitute. I don?t know why this dish is associated with the world?s oldest profession - it must be far more enjoyable than paid-for sex. It?s also exceedingly quick to produce and quite impressive, because it has a really authentic ethnic Italian feel about it.
I first met it in the Spaghetti House in Exeter (an excellent establishment), while planning my daughter Sarah?s wedding. There?s a recipe in Claudia Roden?s Mediterranean Cooking but it?s quite different, and Loyd Grossman has lent his name to a sauce which says it?s alla puttanesca (I?d love to hear him trying to pronounce it!) but contains tomatoes. Does everything that purports to be Italian have to have tomatoes in? For recipes that don?t, read the two River Café cookbooks.
This is my attempt to recreate the Devon version from memory. I usually use either spaghetti or tagliatelle (the green-and-white paglia e fieno kind is nice - Sainsbury?s do a good fresh version).
Serve onto hot plates, digging the bits out of the corners of the pan. Offer freshly grated or flaked Parmesan, though it is probably a bit over the top - you don?t have to sprinkle cheese on everything Italian, either.
You can add all sorts of other things to this, but I prefer to keep it simple, so that the anchovy-and-pepper-flavoured oil (of which there should be lots), the capers and the olives are all tasted separately.
Tuck a napkin in your collar (the oil tends to splash a bit) and enjoy. Mop up any spare oil with good bread (ciabatta is reasonably authentic).
If you haven?t got a pasta server (like a deep spoon with prongs all round it), get one; when your wooden or plastic one gives out, as it will, get a stainless steel one.
Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.
This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.