I was never sure if I liked pasta puttanesca. In fact I am not even sure how many times I had eaten it before last week. That’s why I was so surprised when I found myself suddenly craving this distinctly Mediterranean medley of flavors.
I admit that anchovies, capers and olives scare me a little (okay, a lot) with their pungency. For that reason–once I decided I had to make it–I was careful to get high-quality ingredients (the antidote to every scary food you think you don’t like). The last thing I wanted was overly fishy pasta for dinner.
I got my anchovies from Whole Foods, and the kalamata olives and capers from Trader Joe’s. I got my canned tomatoes from TJ’s as well.
The only other ingredients required were olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and parsley.
The recipe I used was a super easy one from Cook’s Illustrated (you have to pay for a subscription to see their recipes) that claimed you could make the entire sauce while your pasta is boiling. I have the utmost faith in Cook’s to guide me through a flawless meal, so I made very few changes to their original recipe.
My main concern was that as a single, busy person in the city I wanted a more balanced meal than just pasta and sauce, and I would rather not go to the trouble of making a side dish. I solved this problem by adding some steamed dinosaur kale to the puttanesca, which turned out to be a perfect, crispy complement to the robust sauce and chewy pasta. The dish ended up truly fabulous.
You can use whatever kind of pasta you like, but this time I went with rigatoni.
Pasta Puttanesca With Kale
(modified from Cook’s Illustrated)
- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 8 anchovy fillets, minced
- 0.5 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp capers, rinsed
- 0.5 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into 1 inch squares
- 0.25 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- rigatoni or pasta of choice
Place a steam basket into pot of shallow water and boil. Add kale and cover. Steam 10 minutes.
Bring several quarts of water to a rolling boil (prepare sauce in the meantime). When water is boiling add 1 tsp salt and pasta. I prefer to make only enough pasta for one meal (~0.5 cup dry), since it does not keep particularly well once cooked. The sauce makes 4 servings and stores up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Press or finely mince garlic and soak it in 1 tbsp of water in a small cup or bowl. Open your can of tomatoes and drain them, reserving 0.5 cup of liquid. Prepare all other ingredients before adding pasta to the water.
Immediately after starting your pasta boiling, heat a pan on medium heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the olive oil swirls easily in the pan add anchovies, garlic mixture and chili flakes. Stir continuously until garlic just begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and simmer.
When pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Moisten pasta with some reserved tomato liquid and toss.
After sauce has simmered about 8 minutes toss in capers, olives, kale and parsley. Mix to combine. I tossed in some excellent Stonehouse olive oil at this point to brighten it up. (Don’t bother with this if you only have cheap olive oil.)
Add an appropriate volume of sauce to your pasta, toss and serve immediately.
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and tell us what you think!