Pasta Puttanesca

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Wolfgang PuckAmong the pasta recipes I make again and again, Pasta Puttanesca ranks very high. It’s quick and simple to make, featuring just a few widely available ingredients, and it has an exciting yet down-to-earth flavor — all reasons, I’m sure, for its Italian name, which refers to women of very easy virtue. The classic puttanesca sauce features a perfect balance of olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, anchovies, capers, olives, oregano, and basil — and this is one case in which I definitely don’t mess around with a classic. To me, so much of Italian cooking is basic home cooking, and you want to prepare the dish simply, so that those ingredients shine.Click here for Wolfgang Puck's full introduction.

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Ingredients

  • 4 lb. plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 3/4 lb. dried penne, spaghetti, or linguine
  • 2 Tbs. capers, drained
  • 1/4 C. pitted Nicoise olives
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 16 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

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Directions

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; on the counter nearby, place a large mixing bowl filled with ice cubes and water. With a small, sharp knife, core the tomatoes and score a shallow X on their opposite ends. Immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water and, as soon as their skins begin to wrinkle, after 30 to 45 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon or wire skimmer and transfer to the ice water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off their skins. Cut each tomato in half, squeeze gently over the sink to remove the seeds, and use the knife to cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch strips. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the anchovy fillets and three quarters of the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Once the sauce has simmered for a few minutes, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook it until al dente, tender but still slightly chewy, following the manufacturer’s suggested cooking time. As soon as the pasta is done, drain it, reserving about 1 C. of the cooking water in a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.

Immediately add the pasta, still slightly dripping, to the sauté pan along with the remaining tomatoes, the capers, olives, and oregano. Toss well to mix and coat the pasta with the sauce, adding some of the reserved water to help them mix well. Turn off the heat, toss in the basil and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mound the pasta on individual serving plates or in shallow pasta bowls. Serve immediately, passing freshly grated Parmesan cheese alongside.

Yield: 4 servings

(Chef Wolfgang Puck’s TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays on the Food Network. Also, his latest cookbook, “Wolfgang Puck Makes It Easy,” is now available in bookstores. Write Wolfgang Puck in care of Tribune Media Services Inc., 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207.)

©2006 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.


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