Please excuse me while I cause 2000 dead Neapolitan whores to roll in their graves. I know they like things done a certain way in Italy, whores included. This recipe kind of fudges with tradition. I’ve replaced the traditional pasta (spaghetti) with rotini, because that’s all I had. I used slow roasted tomatoes because I just wanted to. I added cannellini beans because I once remembered eating a southern Italian dish (Sicilian I believe) that incorporated beans (ok maybe chickpeas) and chilies and garlic, and it was delicious. I probably didn’t use the right proportions. But damn this pasta was good, so I’m going to blog about it anyway!
The concept for this dish began with a recipe that I read in the New York Times for slow roasted tomatoes. As I was slowly roasting them, I started to think of what I could put the tomatoes in. Puttanesca suddenly popped into my head, because it’s one of my favourite Italian dishes. What’s not to like? It’s salty and spicy and not too heavy. I’ve always been intrigued by Southern Italian cooking (no, not it’s bastardized American counterpart), and am always looking for ways to expand that culinary vocabulary. Or maybe it’s just because it’s my not so secret dream to move to Sardinia and become a shepherd. But anyway, I was thinking of Puttanesca, and it occurred to me that it might taste even better than normal with slow roasted tomatoes in it. Picked at peak season, then roasted until they’re sweet and crispy and caramelized…they’re just so much better than your regular canned tomatoes. I knew I had to try this!
Oh, and by the way, for those who are not aware, Puttanesca is called whore’s pasta because it’s supposed to have been created by prostitutes in the south of Italy, who would use its wonderful smell to lure clients into their homes. You gotta respect a lady with a business plan!
Whore’s Pasta à la Ellen
1 pound or so of pasta (you don’t need to be too specific. Enough for 4 or 5.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (again, no need to be too exact)
half an onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tin anchovies, washed and slightly chopped
crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
wine or wine vinegar
half a can of cannellini beans
handful of olives, chopped (tapenade will do in a fix). Black are more traditional, but I like green too.
1 tablespoon of capers
10 or so slow roasted tomatoes, medium sized and roughly chopped.
2 handfuls of parsley, preferably flat-leaf Italian, chopped
Place a saucepan on high heat. Add water. When the water’s boiled, add salt, then pasta. Boil until al dente. Ideally pasta should be boiling while you make sauce, and they should both finish around the same time.
Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium. Add onion, and cook a few minutes, until slightly caramelized. Add garlic and anchovies. If everything’s sticking or burning a bit, splash a bit of wine or vinegar in the pan (I used balsamic vinegar…blasphemy I know, since it’s from the north, but it’s what I had on hand. But don’t worry, it tastes delicious!) Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add cannellini beans (though they’re totally not necessary. They make the dish a bit heartier, but if you want to stick to a more classic version of the dish, leave them out.) Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring or flipping the mixture frequently. Add olives or a spoonful of tapenade. Add capers and slow roasted tomatoes. Cook for another minute or so. You want the sauce to meld together a bit, but you don’t want the olives to disintegrate too much. This is a chunky sauce. Turn off heat. Add chopped parsley.
Toss pasta with the sauce. Serve hot.
Oh, and if you want to know how to slow roast those tomatoes…cut them in half. Place them in a bowl with a little olive oil and stir to coat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Grease a wire rack and place on top of baking pan. Place tomatoes on the rack, facing up.
Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and salt, and cook in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours. When they’re done, they should be slightly shriveled, crispy and caramelized. Perfect for eating warm on their own, on in a dish like this!