Talk to Shari on Whatsapp
Talk to us whatsapp   

 Spaghetti alla puttanesca

The story goes that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot. Apparently Petti's moment of inspiration came when—near closing one evening—Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and told them he did not have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry, saying "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi," meaning something like "make for us whatever the f*ck you got!” Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers—the basic ingredients for the sugo. He used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti.  Later, Petti included this dish on his menu as spaghetti alla puttanesca.

"puttana" means roughly "whore" or "prostitute" and puttanesca is an adjective derived from that word. However,  the name probably has more to do with the practical use of "puttanesca" in Italian than with its literal definition: "Italians use puttana (and related words) almost the way we use shit, as an all-purpose profanity, so pasta alla puttanesca might have originated with someone saying, essentially, 'I just threw a bunch of shit from the cupboard into a pan’. 

It might not be the most appealing introduction to this dish but its a great dish! It’s super simple to make, tasty and delicious! 

Serves 4 to 6

oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed
¼ cup / 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 fresh peperoncini or other hot peppers, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 can (16 ounces / 450 g) crushed tomatoes
16 oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound / 500 g dried spaghetti
chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.

2 Drain the anchovies, pat them dry with paper towels, and coarsely chop.

3 Rinse the capers under running water, soak in fresh water for 10 minutes, then squeeze and drain.

4 In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the anchovies, peperoncini, and garlic and cook until the anchovies start to sizzle (you can hear a crackling sound) and the garlic is lightly golden. Add the capers, tomatoes, olives, and oregano. Increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce starts to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.

5 Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Reserving ½ cup / 120 ml of the pasta water, drain the pasta.

6 Heat the sauce over high heat. Add the pasta and some of the reserved pasta water. Toss the pasta until it’s coated, adding more pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil and some parsley on top.

Add a nice glass of Primera from Talosa, one of our favourite wines from Monteulciano Primera is a cellar selection of the best barrels of Pinot Noir from the Edna Ranch, and made in very limited quantities. This is a rare lot that, through terroir driven expression, reaches a level of quality rivaling the very best Pinot Noirs of the world.

Plinius’ The hidden secret of Montepulciano 


Recipe from Old World Italian. Copyright © 2020 by Marie-France Thorisson. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Oddur Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

Olivia Green