If you have to name a pasta sauce with the most strong distinctive flavor, it’s Puttanesca. Even when blindfolded, it’s quite easy to identify this particular sauce because of its remarkable umami notes…salty, briny, bold and pungent flavors. This beloved Italian sauce originated in the mid-20th century in Naples. Although there is no definitive documentation as to who invented the dish, folktales says that it was created by chefs to come up with a dish for customers who arrived at the wee hours and after the kitchen had already closed. They scoured their pantry for ingredients, canned tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and anchovies-ingredients which were abundant and readily available without refrigeration.
Given the ingredients, this dish boasts an explosion of flavors making it an instant hit in Italian restaurants and now, worldwide. These customers who knock down the restaurant doors late were mostly sailors and prostitutes. Stories said that the spicy peppery aroma of the garlic and anchovies in the sauce would attract customers from the brothels, making this the favorite dish of prostitutes in Naples, Italy. The italian word for prostitutes is “puttana.” Hence, puttanesca. The same etymology gave this dish it’s sensual and romantic connotation, a favorite item on the menu at Italian restaurants for Valentine’s day.
Now, why do we add bourbon? Some puttanesca recipes have dry wine added in the sauce to give it an extra body. The same reasoning why bourbon is added, for an extra layer of sweet round flavor to balance off the saltiness of the anchovies, capers & olives.
- 1 Large Pot
- 1 Small Bowl
- 1 Large Saucepan
- 1 box Pasta
- 1 28 oz can Chopped Tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 1/2 ounce Bourbon
- 1/2 cup Olives Kalamata, Verdi, or a mix
- 1/4 cup Capers
- 6 fillet Anchovies in oil
- 8 cloves Garlic thinly sliced
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- Red Pepper Flakes to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil as needed
- Parsley chopped
- Cook the pasta following the directions on the box. Make sure it is a bit undercooked (the noodles will be added to the sauce in the course later, thereby continuing the cooking process)
- In a small bowl, put the olives and the capers together and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, set aside.
- Place the saucepan on medium heat, drizzle generously with EVOO and sauté the garlic until golden. Add the anchovies and continue to stir until it melts into tiny flakes. By this time, it will give out a pungent perfume. Pour in the bourbon and cook until it caramelizes.
- Lower the heat and add the tomato sauce and paste in the same saucepan. Simmer and slowly stir until the sauce reduces and thickens. Salt and pepper to taste and add back the pasta, red pepper flakes, the olives and capers in EVOO. Gently mix.
- Garnish with chopped Parsley and serve.
A hint of smokiness, sweet and fruity with notes of figs and dates; this sherry forward creamy dram is a great starter and cap for this dish.