The Ultimate Penne alla Puttanesca

DSC_0528Ingredients: 100 gr / 150 gr penne, 1 tbsp capers, a couple of anchovies fillets in olive oil, a bunch of taggiasche olives (Kalamata olives will also be good), 1 red chilli pepper, half yellow onion, a handful fresh parsley, 2 Better Boy tomatoes, concentrated tomato paste (as needed), Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Spices and Seasonings: 1 tbsp chilli pepper powder, 1 tbsp hot chilli from Calabria infused oil

When I got properly into cooking, I yearned to recreate a dish following its traditional recipe and, whenever possible, by adding a little bit of my personal touch. I think that I have inherited this from my dad, who is my inspiration every time I deal with Italian cuisine. The way he makes even a simple tomato sauce is pure perfection and he will always add something peculiar from his end. Despite not being a professional cook, the way he moves in the kitchen denotes passion. Passion for food and for making exquisite dishes as if they were a piece of art. Mixing the ingredients sometimes looks like painting. That’s how I would define my puttanesca sauce: raw autumn colors encounter the bright red and the result is a distinctive main course.


Penne alla puttanesca is originally from Campania and there are a lot of funny stories and urban legends regarding the meaning of the name (for non-Italians: puttanesca is a word that derives from puttana, which means ‘whore’). Once I heard that this type of pasta used to be quite popular in brothels and places where prostitutes used to hang out a lot and it was made by leftovers of the day. The original recipe is supposed to be without anchovies, which have been added on a later stage and have become known as the puttanesca laziale i.e. from Lazio. My personal touch to add that kick of extra spiciness: hot chilli from Calabria infused oil.


Ingredients are added one by one, each of them should be in the pan for a couple of minutes, enough to become softer and then, just like the artist uses his brush to mix all the colours together, a splash of redness makes its entrance and everything melts together.


Just a couple of minutes after and voilà – the dish is ready. Perfect for a romantic dinner for two for its spiciness and perfect for an evening with friends. Last minute touch: fresh parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano.


This pasta is so versatile that it is also perfectly suitable both for vegetarians and vegans by leaving out the anchovies and the parmesan (which anyway is optional) and it can be cooked with gluten free pasta, as I did in this case using the Glutafin penne.


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