This is a variation on Pasta Puttanesca a dish, as legend would have it, that was infamous for being enjoyed by Italian street walkers on cool and rainy nights. This version was taught to me by Joe, a Calabrese chef who ran the kitchen in my restaurant Bella Festa back in the1980’s and came to us by way of Toronto. Apparently street walkers all over the world over love this dish.
As with most tomato based Italian dishes, you must start with a classic tomato sauce. This is Joe’s recipe.
1 large can of Pavoncella tomatoes (not kidding, you MUST use these)
1/3 C olive oil
½ C onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
Using a large pot, pour the tomatoes in and put on an apron (also not kidding). Using freshly sanitized hands, grab each tomato and pull the “bum end” out of each tomato, including any fibrous material, skin and leaves. Squish each tomato lovingly or angrily depending on your mood.
In a small frying pan heat the oil, add onions and garlic and sauté until transparent. Add to squished tomatoes along with some salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and then simmer until reduced by half and deep red (approximately 3 hours).
Pasta Puttana (serves 4)
This dish is not for the faint-hearted. While absolutely delicious and full of flavour (we couldn’t make it fast enough), it can pop the top of your head off. At my restaurant we offered this dish mild, hot or nuclear. Use the amount of peppers you are comfortable with.
500 – 600 grams dry spaghetti
¾ C olive oil
4 filets anchovies, diced fine
6 – 8 heads garlic, diced fine
¼ C crushed red peppers or more to taste
¾ C tomato sauce
½ C good parmesan cheese, grated
fresh parsley chopped
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water. Leave it a little underdone as it will cook further in the sauté pan.
Heat the olive oil in the sauté pan until very hot.
Drop the anchovies and garlic into the oil. The anchovies will dissolve and the garlic will turn dark brown.
Add the chilies (stand back – they give off a lot of aroma!).
Stir in the tomato sauce and simmer while pasta is cooking.
Add pasta and cheese, toss.
Pour into bowls and garnish with parsley.