This is a simple pasta dish from Naples, Italy, and one that has very interesting history. "Puttana" in Italian means whore, and the dish literally translates to "stinks like a whore". There are quiet a few explanations for this name, the most widely accepted is the strong aroma of the dish, with garlic, capers, olives and anchovies, would attract men to the eating establishment from the close by brothels. More history of this dish and its name here.
No matter the name, this is a bright and wonderful sauce that explodes with flavor. The secret to the sauce is how quickly iy cooks, it is not one of those slow simmered sauces. The freshness of the tomatoes is off-set by the chili flakes, salty anchovies, garlic, tart capers and black olives, all adding strong flavors. I served it as an accompaniment to lightly breadcrumbed chicken that was quick pan sautéed. The light chicken is the perfect foil for the flavorful pasta, adding tha much needed protein. This is one of those 20 minute dinners that is amazing.
This cookbook from Alice Waters of the famed and lovely Chez Pannise restaurant is an outstanding example of great flavors with fresh ingredients. The dishes are mostly simple but pop with flavor. I have been fortunate to enjoy a few dinners here, and on each occasion have left with wonder, the presentation, flavors and their work with farm-to-table cuisine is amazing. This and her other cookbooks belong on every bookshelf.
For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.
For the pasta sauce:
4 tablespoons olive oil
10 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
2-3 anchovies in oil, omit for vegan version
2 lb tomatoes, finely diced
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
10 leaves basil, cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup black olives, kept whole or diced
1 teaspoon chili flakes, not powder, or to taste
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
Spaghetti, cooked as per directions on box, minus 1 minute for "al dente"
Parsley, minced for garnish
Parmesan cheese, to grate on top
For the chicken:
3 chicken breasts, cut in half longitudinally into very thin fillets
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, Panko preferred
1/2 teaspoon parsley, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano,
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chili flakes
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten kept separately in a bowl
For the pasta:
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the garlic, onions and anchovies. Sauté till the onions are soft and translucent but not colored.
Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil, oregano and bring to a simmer. Cook covered for 10 minutes till the tomatoes have just begun to break down and formed a sauce. Stir frequently so the ingredients do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the capers, olives, chili, and parsley. Mix in well and simmer covered for an additional 5 minutes. If the sauce is getting too dry add a few tablespoons water. Taste and adjust salt, spice and sugar if too acidic.
To serve, you can either add the pasta to the sauce and toss well in the pot on low heat. Alternatively, you can serve the pasta in a bowl and load the sauce on top. Garnish with the parsley and some grated Parmesan cheese at the table.
For the chicken:
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper well and set aside.
Take the thin chicken breasts, you can pound with a mallet if desired for a thinner fillet, and dip into the egg. Let all the egg drip off. Dredge into the breadcrumb mix lightly coating it on both sides. You do not want a thick breadcrumby layer, light and delicate. Lay flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Spray generously with olive oil.
Bake for 20 minutes till the breasts are golden and browned. Turn once after 10 minutes.
Alternatively, fry the breaded chicken in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil till we’ll colored, about 5 minutes. Flip and fry for another 4 minutes.
Serve immediately with the pasta with some grated Parmesan on top.