Think you can snag a man simply with the intoxicating scent of simmering tomatoes, olives & capers wafting from your kitchen window? A few “working” women in 20th century Italy certainly thought so!
Dying to share my time-saving take on the Pasta Puttanesca recipe I enjoyed last weekend at the Barilla Interactive Lunch, I did a little research on the origins of the kind of salty, kind of spicy, kind of AMAZING dish to fill you in on. Because I’m a nerd like that.
What I found definitely surprised me!
Apparently Pasta Puttanesca – pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce laced with garlic, kalamata olives, capers, and parsley – was invented by a few Italian “ladies of the night” in the 1960s, who would put steaming bowls of the pungent pasta in the windows of their bordello to lure men in. Oh snap!
I can’t tell you if it’s true or not, but what I can tell you is if the scent was anywhere near as enchanting as the ones wafting from the kitchens in the Italian town of Praiano on the Amalfi Coast that Ben and I visited a couple years ago, than those men, like Ben’s sleeves, never stood a chance.
(Enchanted by a Pasta Puttanesca-esque scent coming from the kitchen of this Italian home!)
While my intentions for cooking Pasta Puttanesca tonight were a little less, colorful, shall we say, I am still totally pumped to share this simple Italian pasta recipe that’s exploding with flavor. The best part is that the pasta cooks in the same skillet as the sauce, which means there’s just one pan to clean!
Start the One-Skillet Pasta Puttanesca by assembling zee ingredients. Kalamata olives, capers, fresh parsley, anchovies (OPTIONAL!) onions, and garlic, join forces with pantry staples like dried pasta, canned tomatoes, red chili pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Begin by chopping 2 Tablespoons onion, 3 garlic cloves, and 1/2 cup kalamata olives, which add a salty, unforgettable flavah to the dish.
Make sure to get pitted kalamata olives, by the way. If you’re a dope like me and accidentally get unpitted, it’s fine. You can actually pit them in 2 seconds. Pit.
Just take your olive and smash it with a heavy-bottomed glass or mallet. The flesh will bust right off.
Combine the kalamata olives in a mini food processor with 1/4 cup fresh parsley, then pulse until the ingredients are roughly chopped.
You can totally do this by hand. I’m just lazy! (Here’s the mini food processor I have – best $50 I ever spent!)
Ok, the prep work’s done. Time to get cookin’! Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the largest skillet you own, then add the onions and garlic, along with 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.
Next, bust out the anchovy paste. Don’t click the red “x”! This anchovy paste is totally optional. Alternatively you could use 2 anchovy filets. Skip it if you must, but anchovies don’t taste “fishy” – rather, they’re kind of nutty and freaking fantastic, actually!
Annoyed at having to buy a whole tube or tin of anchovies for just this one recipe? Use the extras to make Tomato Cracked Pepper Pasta with Olive Oil and Broccoli or Surprise Broccoli Pasta!
Let the onions, garlic, chili pepper, and anchovies saute for a few minutes, then add a 28oz can petite diced tomatoes and 3 cups water to the skillet.
Finish ‘er off with 12oz rotini pasta and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Slap a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to high, then bring the liquid to a boil.
Turn the heat down ever so slightly to maintain a vigorous simmer, not a boil, and cook the pasta for 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until it’s al dente.
Voila! Don’t be afraid if there’s still liquid in the skillet, by the way. It will be absorbed into the pasta as it cools, which is why you want to make sure you don’t overcook it in the first place. Did that make any sense?
Turn the heat off, then add the chopped olives & parsley, along with 2 Tablespoons capers to the skillet and give it a good mixin’.
That’ll do it!
Plate the One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca, then top with an additional sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley which provides a burst of freshness amongst the boldly flavored pasta.
One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped onion (white or red)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 2 minced anchovies), optional
salt & pepper
28oz can good quality petite diced tomatoes
3 cups water
12oz dry rotini pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley + more for garnish, chopped
2 Tablespoons capers
- Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, red chili pepper flakes, and anchovy paste. Season with salt and pepper then saute until onions soften, about 4 minutes.
- Add petite diced tomatoes, water, pasta, and salt, then bring the liquid to a boil. Place a lid on top of the skillet then keep the pasta at medium-high heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring often, or until pasta is al dente. Do not overcook, and do not worry if there is extra liquid still in the skillet.
- Turn the heat off, add the olives, parsley, and capers to the skillet then stir to combine. Serve topped with freshly chopped parsley.
Get your portion control pants on, because your fork, like those alleged men, will want to keep wandering back to this pasta. Bite after bite just gets better and better!
The salty pieces of kalamata olives and capers dotting the pasta are like little treasures, and the amount of heat is just right.
Seriously, seriously drool worthy, and made in just one skillet. How easy is that?!
While those men couldn’t resist the scent of a steaming plate of Pasta Puttanesca for dinner, I simply cannot ignore the siren call of a caramel-filled Champ Cone for dessert. I’m off!