One of Italy's finest pasta dishes, the Puttanesca has a past amongst Rome's ladies of the night, from where it takes its name. This flavoursome dish was apparently used, according to legend, to help put the ladies' clients in the right mood for an enjoyable evening. While it can't guarantee seduction, what follows is a recipe for how to make spaghetti Puttanesca.
Ingredients (serves four)
500g of dried, shop-bought spaghetti
One 400g tin of tomatoes
Six to seven tablespoons of good olive oil
Six to eight anchovies, the kind preserved in salt and available from supermarkets in jars or tins
Two tablespoons of fresh oregano, or half a teaspoon dried
Two cloves of garlic
Two tablespoons of capers
10 to 12 black olives, their stones removed and sliced in half Optional ingrdient Half a teaspoon dried, crushed chillis. Step one
Like many Italian dishes, Puttanesca really starts with finding a good olive oil. Add around six tablespoons of the best olive to a hot pan. Then put two crushed cloves of garlic into the hot oil . If you are adding chilli and want an especially fiery sauce, then you can add the crushed chillis now too. Cook until the garlic has begin to colour but not burn. Add the chopped anchovies and cook until they are almost dissolved. Step two Add the tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper (remember that the anchovies will already have added a good deal of salt to the dish). Cook at a medium heat until the tomatoes have begin to brown. While you are doing this, bring the water for the pasta, around four litres, to boil in a pan and add a couple of teaspoons of salt. Step three Carefully wash the capers, if you are using the ones pickled in vinegar or preserved in salt. You do not want to overpower the dish with a vinegary flavour or too much salt. Add the capers, olives and oregano to the tomatoes in the pan. Continue to cook the tomatoes until they have grown smaller and separated from the oil. You can also add the crushed chillis at this stage of the process, along with the capers and olives. Step four Drain the spaghetti and toss it with the sauce until all spaghetti strands are coated. Serve at once, piping hot. This dish can be accompanied with Italian red wine and good company.