Thursday, January 15, 2009

improvising: do it with pasta!

It hurts when the clouds of crunchy meringue fresh from the brand new KitchenAid that you had imagined actually emerge as rock-like blobs. But don't you fret (and don't you pout), for there is Pasta Puttanesca, which will make you feel all better. Take it from me.
Today, during my religiously regular reading of Mark Bittman's blog, I came upon his Pasta Puttanesca recipe. Translated as 'whore's pasta', this Italian dish carries with it a fair share of wives' tales about why it got its name. My guess is that somebody really wanted people to order this cheap, easy-to-make dish from a menu and therefore tapped into that lascivious curiosity most of us have that makes us just have to order that. If my theory is correct, that person was successful.
Regardless of what, ahem, made me first try this dish, the taste is what keeps me coming back. It's my favorite dinner that my mom makes, and it was the first thing I ever made for Mary (back then I didn't cook a lot, and Mom said it would be easy). The great thing is, even if you mess it up, it still tastes incredible. Bittman's recipe calls for only three puny anchovies, but I generally throw in a whole tin (about 12). They add this great unctuous-ness and are actually really nutritious. Bittman also calls for black olives, but I usually use calamata. Today I found a delicious-looking mixture of plump specimens at the market, so I opted for that. You can also serve it over any pasta (or grain, for that matter) that you having lying around. I like it on whole wheat penne, but tonight we enjoyed it atop a fancy pasta we got as a holiday gift. In addition, this freezes really well. I highly recommend doubling the recipe and saving it in small freezer bags or Tupperware for midweek meals. 
*One last thing: I love to grate a hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino romano on top, but one NYTimes commenter said that it was blasphemous to mix cheese with fish in Italian cuisine. In this case, I urge you to break that rule. I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did.

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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009