Tuesday, February 17, 2015

20 Minute Pasta Puttanesca

I started making Pasta Puttanesca many years ago because it is a fast dish with very little prep work yet still super flavorful.  I could come home from a long day at work and have a healthy yet comforting meal on the table in 20 minutes.  I was not the only one who took advantage of this quick and delicious recipe.  The legend of Pasta Puttanesca goes like this; hundreds of years ago, Italian "ladies of the night" would make this dish in between their "customers" to eat quickly and use the incredible aroma to lure new clients their way.  So this pasta dish has some interesting roots, but the most important thing here is that it's a fantastic recipe that has obviously stood the test of time!  What makes this dish so fast and flavorful is the ingredients, which you probably have in your pantry right now.  Each one packs a punch on their own, from the olives to the capers to anchovy paste (don't be scared of this one!).  Using fresh herbs and lemon cut through the saltiness and add a brightness to the whole dish.  To up the health factor, I use whole grain pasta and my favorite one for this meal is angel hair.  It cooks fast and the delicate strands offer a nice balance to the tangy and briney sauce.  This recipe is gorgeous to look at it and absolutely delicious to eat.  While the dish is traditionally vegetarian, I have added shrimp and chicken to it which was also fantastic.  You have to give this one a try, it hasn't been around for hundreds of years for nothing!

This is what you need:

1 lb of Whole Grain Pasta (angel hair or spaghetti)
1 can of Diced Tomatoes (2 cans if you like a saucier sauce)
1 can of Artichoke Hearts (frozen would work fine too)
1/2 cup Olives (I use Kalamata, but any you prefer or have on hand will work)
1/4 cup Capers
1 tbsp Anchovy Paste (optional)
1/2 Onion - chopped
4 cloves of Garlic - minced
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Bepper
1/8 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/4 cup Flat Leaf Parsley - chopped
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

This is what you do:
Bring a large pot of water to boil.  While the water is boiling heat a large pan over medium-high with 2 tbsp oil and chop the 1/2 onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  Add the onions and seasonings and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and 1 tbsp anchovy paste and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the can of tomatoes and artichoke hearts and let simmer for a couple of minutes.  When the water is boiling, add salt and a few dashes of oil to it and drop your pasta.  While the pasta is cooking, add the 1/2 cup olives and 1/4 cup capers.  Mix all around and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked al dente per package directions.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water before draining.  after drained, put the pasta right into the sauce pan.  Add the 1/4 cup parsley and juice of half a lemon.  Coat the pasta and let sit for a minute or 2.  Serve and sprinkle with cheese and a bit more parsley.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4-6

First thing to do is get a large pot of water on high heat for the pasta, then chop half onion and mince  four cloves of garlic. Add 2 tbsp of Olive Oil to a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Add the onions, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes to the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and the anchovy paste.  Now, I realize anchovy paste doesn't sound appetizing to most of us, but when heated it has a nutty and salty flavor that work so well in this dish.  However, it completely optional, and the recipe works beautifully without it too.
Admittingly, the anchovy paste does not look very appetizing either.  Luckily, it cooks down to this:
Nothing to see here except onions and garlic that look delicious.

At this point, add the can of tomatoes with all the juices and drain and chop the can of artichokes
If you like your pasta to have a saucier type texture, you can always add another can of tomatoes here.  
Run your knife through the artichokes so they are easier to eat and then add to the pan.  Bring this to simmer.

By now the pasta water should be boiling, so add a handful of salt and a couple of dashes of oil to the water and then drop your pasta.  Take your tongs and mix the pasta around a bit so it doesn't stick together.

This will cook fast, but check your package directions.  You want the pasta to be al dente, which means it has a little bite to it, not mushy. 

While the pasta is cooking, add the 1/2 cup olives and 1/4 cup capers to the sauce pan.
 You can slice the olives or leave them whole.
Looking so good already.

Let this simmer and get the 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley and lemon ready.  

Taste test the pasta and when it is ready, grab a coffee mug and reserve some of the pasta water before draining.  This is something I do every time I make pasta because the starchy cooking water is a great way to loosen pasta sauces and make them go further.  Especially sauces that are not tomato based.
Add a a couple tablespoons at a time until the pasta and sauce is at the consistency you like. 

Drain the pasta and quickly place it right in the sauce pan.  Add the parsley and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Mix around with tongs and add the pasta water as needed. 
Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. 

Serve and top with Parmesan and parsley if desired. 

And there you have it, a complete meal in 20 minutes that is fresh, delicious and healthy.  If you are missing an ingredient or two, customize it to what you have or prefer.  I have made this so many times and each time it is fantastic.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!