The goal when making pasta puttanesca is to have the sauce and pasta finish at the same time. It’s good practice for a fun game that I like to play called Get Everything on the Table at Once. The sauce should cook fast and hot, and the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. This will cause the sauce to suck up into the pasta–mmmm. Better get those garlic toasts out at the same time because you will want to eat this immediately!
Pasta puttanesca is a perfect and quick late night supper. It delivers big, satisfying flavors with ingredients you can keep on-hand like jarred olives, tinned anchovies, canned tomatoes, parmesan, and dry pasta. It’s even better if you have fresh herbs for the finish, we used a combo of dried basil in the sauce and fresh basil at the end. We included bacon in this recipe, but it is not a required or traditional ingredient for a puttanesca sauce, we just happened to have it in the fridge and bacon goes with everything, right? It added a nice meatiness to the dish. You can serve this with the same red wine you used in the sauce.
“What if I don’t like anchovies?” Put them in anyway. They will melt away into the sauce leaving only a delectable briny bass note to the sauce.
Pasta Puttanesca with Garlic Toasts
- 1/4 pound thick cut bacon, diced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 gloves garlic, smashed and chopped fine
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 tin anchovies, chopped
- 10 black or green olives, pits removed and roughly chopped (we used green ones from the Whole Foods olive bar)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 cups whole canned tomatoes, crushed, with their juices
- 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces immediately before use
- 1/2 cup (or more) freshly shredded parmesan
- about 1/2 a pound dry pasta, spaghetti is traditional
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Garlic Toasts:
- Slices of good Italian bread (as many as you like)
- Garlic powder
Start a large pot of well-salted water over high heat.
Do all of your chopping.
Butter the bread for the garlic toasts and sprinkle them with garlic powder and paprika. Start an oven at 350 degrees for the garlic toasts. (We do ours in the toaster oven, which does not take long to heat up.)
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until it is about 3/4 to where you usually like it. Pour off most of the rendered bacon fat, keeping the bacon in the pan. Pour the oil into the pan along with the onions and garlic, sauté until the onions are slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, dried basil, anchovies, and olives to the pan, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the red wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan (i.e. deglaze it). The wine will quickly lose its alcohol odor, when this happens, pour in the tomatoes and stir the sauce to mix the tomatoes in well.
Your water should be boiling furiously by now. Start your pasta and set a timer for 1 minute less than the cook time on the box (or your preferred level of al dente). Stir the pasta so it does not stick together.
Go get your serving bowls, silverware, wine glasses, etc., ready to go. Better yet, have someone else do it.
As soon as the pasta timer dings, drain the pasta and dump it immediately into the sauce; don’t shake the pasta, you want a to get bit of the cooking water into the sauce. You can also add a ladleful of pasta water to the sauce if needed. Add the fresh basil, then stir, toss, or otherwise mix and cook until the past is al dente.
Toast the garlic toasts. Better yet, have someone else do this too.
Serve the pasta in warm bowls with garlic toasts and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.