Penne puttanesca is without doubt one of the simplest pasta dishes you can ever hope to make. You can literally throw in staples from your pantry or fridge.
The puttanesca origin goes back centuries in Italy and, as you would expect, there is quite a story behind this dish, which just adds to its mystique. The story of the recipe for puttanesca sauce is so fascinating we share it before we move on to our penne puttanesca recipe.
But before that, I have to tell you about the inspiration for writing about penne puttanesca. We were lucky enough to attend cooking demonstrations at the Milan Expo from a Michelin-starred chef, a former rugby player can you believe. He prepared a very gourmet version of penne puttanesca, Not only was this a fabulous cooking demonstration (and tasting)
A Gourmet Version of Penne Puttanesca
The chef was Marco Martini, from Stazione di Posta in Rome. His restaurant is Michelin-starred. From what we could gather he is a well known, well reputed, Italian chef. He formerly represented Italy playing rugby and had a very engaging personality. His recipe was puttanesca penne, but one with a difference. It was very gourmet and almost the opposite of the true puttanesca origin.
The demonstration was in Italian, translated into English. At the conclusion of the demonstration you could sample the dish. It lasted about an hour and was interesting.
We learnt penne, although popular in Italy, is not used that much by restaurants. Spaghetti usually accompanies a puttanesca sauce. In Italy such a dish would be called spaghetti alla puttanesca and it is extremely popular.
Watching this demonstration was eye-opening and you can see why highly rated restaurants are expensive. Marco’s recipe for puttanesca sauce consisted of 5 components:
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- concentrated home made tomato puree including oregano
- concentrated olive “powder” (olives baked overnight in a very slow oven)
- concentrated anchovy “powder” (same treatment as the olive powder)
- parsley puree
- tomato water (added to the boiling water to cook the pasta and used to finish off the dish)
If you look closely at the above picture you might notice the penne is “ribbed” as opposed to a smooth, round shape. The ribbed version is called penne rigate. It tastes the same as standard penne of course but it reputedly works better because thick sauces, like our recipe for puttanesca sauce, stick better to the pasta!
But, don’t worry about this dish being fiddly; nothing could be further from the truth.
Penne Puttanesca for the Common Person
Unlike the gourmet version produced by Marco, the puttanesca origin demands you throw whatever you have left over in your fridge or pantry into your own recipe for puttanesca sauce.
Our penne puttanesca is an easy sauce to make that is not complicated, using many items you will find in a good delicatessen or supermarket.
There is also a story behind this recipe. If you research the origin of puttanesca sauce, it seems it was a favorite of “working girls” if you get my drift, who wanted something quick and could be made form pantry staples. I’m not sure about that but I do know that this recipe is delicious and is easy to make.
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