I made pasta puttanesca today, a winter's day when there were lots of things to do, and no time for leisurely cooking. The word puttanesca in Italian means "something that pertains to whores," therefore pasta puttanesca is "the pasta preferred by ladies of the evening." These hardworking women, members of the oldest profession in the world, have had the honor to have this delightful dish named after them. Why it is named after them I do not know. There are many versions which tell why, and as far as I am concerned one version is as convincing as the next. One version says that the recipe was used to lure customers with its aroma. Another says that it was a dish that could be thrown together in a moment's notice, with items found in any "busy lady's" pantry. There is a version which says that it was a go to recipe for housewives who wanted to serve a quick meal in order to move on to other things. Well, all those explanations will do for me. Pasta puttanesca is an aromatic dish, easy and quick to prepare, full of the flavors of the Mediterranean. It contains an excellent sauce to mix up with pasta. This sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. No need to use any salt whatsoever. The saltiness of this dish will come from the olives, the capers and the anchovies.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, the pepper flakes and half of the parsley, and cook for another minute. Add the anchovies and stir, pressing them with a cooking spoon to break them up. Add the olives and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in the capers.
- The sauce can also be flavored with some basil and a bit of oregano, but that's optional. Most versions of pasta puttanesca include hot pepper flakes, but I usually omit or limit the amount I use, as most of us at home are not partial to spicy foods.
- Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix with the sauce. Add the rest of the parsley, olive oil and basil if using. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
- Serve right away, and enjoy it. It's soo good.