Tiny Kitchen Magic: Pasta alla Puttanesca

Midtown Oyster Bar

Well, hello there Newport. My name is Jay. I’m a lifelong eater.  I am also a (mostly) self-taught cook. In this monthly column, I’m hoping to show that no matter the size of the kitchen, you can cook seriously delicious food.  I have a tiny kitchen, hence the name of the column. 

One thing you need to know about me is I’m not going to make you read a 10-page dissertation on my soul searching trip to Tuscany where I met the sweet old lady owner of a tiny family-owned Italian bistro blah blah. Nope, you’re here to learn how to cook delicious food. I AM, however, going to try and strip away the taboo of some ingredients that seem to put the fear into people.   Some of the recipes are going to have ingredients you normally would balk at or never try. You’re missing out, trust me. In fact,  this month’s recipe contains one of those ingredients. Pro chefs, I know I probably do some things wrong.  Calm down. 

Now that I’m done ranting, let’s get to why we’re here: cooking. I will let you know that some of my recipes will be quick and easy and some of them are going to be labor-intensive and will require the patience of a saint. 

This month, I am going to start off with an easy and very delicious recipe.  We’re going to get this baby started with my favorite pasta sauce, puttanesca.    Heads up: this isn’t quite a traditional puttanesca. I’ll explain later.

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Midtown Oyster Bar

Now, here’s what you will need to make this sauce.

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I’m not going to make sauce from scratch with tomatoes…yet)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp capers, chopped
  • 8-10 green olives, chopped *
  • 6-8 anchovy filets, chopped
  • 1 small to medium onion, diced
  • ¼  tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

* This is the non-traditional ingredient.  Traditional puttanesca calls for black olives. I prefer green, but black will do if you prefer them.

I don’t like using a pot for this sauce like I would a soup or stew. Instead, I use a large saucepan to make it, as I do for most of my pasta sauces. The reason for this is ideally, you want to finish your pasta cooking in the sauce, and having more surface area just makes that easier to toss it and get the pasta incorporated into the sauce. I suggest using a pan like this:

So, put your large saucepan on medium heat and put the oil in the pan.  When the oil is hot, throw in the anchovies.  Yup, anchovies.  Don’t be afraid.  They will literally melt into the oil and they add a wonderful, non-fishy depth of flavor. If you still have reservations about anchovies, I have a question. Do you like Caesar dressing? Oh, you do? Guess what, anchovies are the main ingredient in it. You’ll be fine.

Once the anchovies have melted into the oil add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes, maybe a touch longer until the onions become translucent. Add the capers and olives and cook for a minute or 2. Once those are done, add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, tops. Do not burn the garlic. One mistake a lot of home cooks make is they put garlic in first.  In most cases, that’s bad news bears. Garlic burns fast so you want to add it later on.

After everything has cooked together for a minute, add the can of crushed tomatoes and mix until everything is incorporated.  Cover, drop the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

This sauce works great with pasta like fusilli or anything with little nooks and crannies, but I also love it over fettuccine. My advice, though, is don’t just pour it over pasta.  When your pasta is about a minute from being done, throw it into the sauce and let it finish in the sauce. This will let the flavor of the sauce penetrate into the pasta and it will be SO much more delicious.  I mean, just look at this!

I hope you enjoy the recipe.  I’ll see y’all next month!

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