Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A taste of Italy at home...

Have you ever had one of those recipes that you absolutely love, but have altered so much from the first time you tried it that you're not even sure if it even resembles the original recipe anymore?  That's Spaghetti alla Puttanesca from the January 2008 edition of Bon Appétit for me.  So, this past weekend when I started getting things together to make it, I decided to try it verbatim again, to see if my taste buds had changed at all.  This is one of my all time favourite sauces to make...you'd be crazy not to try some version of it!
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 796mL can of peeled tomatoes in puree with basil (I couldn't find a can with basil, so I chopped up a fresh bunch of basil and added that instead)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved and pitted (I bought the pre-sliced type...slacker, I know)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp drained capers
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute (I found this was less than 30 seconds.  I find if you leave it for a full minute your garlic is on the verge of burning).  Add remaining ingredients, excluding pasta, parsley and cheese.  Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon for about 8 minutes (I left this close to 20 minutes as I was getting the rest of dinner ready).  Season with salt and pepper (I didn't add any...didn't think it needed it).
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until it's tender but still firm to bite.  Drain the pasta and return it to the sauce pan.  Add the parsley and toss the pasta until it's coated with the puttanesca sauce.  Let meld for a couple of minutes and then serve with cheese.  Serves 4.
My conclusion?  This is an absolutely lovely recipe that is good no matter how you make it.  However, I do plan on reverting to my version of the recipe in the future...changes included below:
  1. Instead of using a can of tomatoes, I like to use fresh tomatoes when they're ripe and in season.  I'd normally use 5-6 roma tomatoes, diced small.  It increases the simmering time, but tastes oh so fresh.
  2. I generally don't add the anchovy fillets.  It helps cut down the cost of the sauce, plus I prefer the saltyness of the olives and capers on their own moreso than with the anchovy fillets.
  3. I normally only add a pinch of crushed red pepper rather than a half a teaspoon.  The half a teaspoon isn't too much heat, but I find it overpowers the flavours of the rest of the ingredients.  So, I prefer to add just a bit so there's a kick but you enjoy the other flavours more.
  4. I tend to add less pasta because I like there to be a little extra sauce to spoon on top of the pasta when you put it on your plate.
  5. I generally don't add cheese to this pasta dish.  I have a hard time believing this myself, because I normally like to slather my pasta in parmesan cheese, but I definitely like this sauce naked!

Now that's one heck of a puttanesca sauce, if I do say so myself!

Dinner...Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, halibut grilled and seasoned with sea salt, and grilled peppers and asparagus.  After this photo, I tried adding some of the puttanesca sauce to the halibut...delicious!  Would have worked very nice with sole or tilapia as well.

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