This pasta is a great dish when you don't know what to make for dinner, you don't have anything defrosted and you want something that can be made from ingredients right out of your pantry. Well, I can make it on any given day with what I have in my pantry, which always contains canned tomatoes, capers, anchovies and olives - and your pantry should always have these items, too. They add great flavor to many dishes. And don't be afraid of the anchovies - remember my post about using anchovies - they just add a depth of flavor to the dish that you will not get without them.
If you're wondering what the name "puttanesca" means, we'll get that right out of the way. It means whore. There. This is "pasta, whore style". How this dish got this name is unknown - there are many stories about that. Mostly having to do with prostitutes in Naples. But no matter. It's quick, easy, salty and spicy and we love it.
The proper pasta to use in this dish is spaghetti, but of course you can use whatever you want. I want to take this opportunity to talk about how to cook pasta properly. Many people do not know what a proper "al dente" texture for pasta is. If you have been to Italy, you know how the Italians cook their pasta. If you have not, I want to show you what that texture is. So the next time you are making spaghetti, I want you to buy Barilla brand thin spaghetti. Bring the water to a boil and add the spaghetti. When the water returns to the boil, time the spaghetti to cook for exactly three and a half minutes. That's it. I don't care what the box says - I think they write those instructions for the American market. Toss the spaghetti thoroughly with your sauce. The spaghetti continues to cook for a little bit after you take it out of the pot - something people do not take into consideration. Now you have perfectly cooked al dente pasta. This will probably be a new taste for you, since even good Italian restaurants in this country can't seem to cook pasta properly.
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2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large pinches of red hot chili pepper (or to your taste)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
about 3 cups of whole peeled canned tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olives, sliced
3 Tablespoons capers, rinsed (packed in salt, not vinegar!)
1 pound thin spaghetti
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
In a skillet over medium heat, add garlic, chili pepper and anchovies to the olive oil. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies melt and dissolve. Do not burn garlic. Add the tomatoes with their juices and break up the tomatoes with a spoon (I use my hands and squish them!). Let this cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at just a simmer. Add the olives and capers. Turn off the heat under the sauce.
If you are using Barilla thin spaghetti, take the spaghetti out with tongs (don't drain) after boiling for exactly three and a half minutes and put the spaghetti right into the skillet. Toss well with the sauce. Add a little pasta water if sauce is too thick. Serve immediately.