Pasta Putanesca

There are few pasta dishes as powerfully flavoured as this marine-dominated classic. Try this freshly developed variation at your next dinner party for a really memorable meal.

Pasta Putanesca
Photo: FJ Potgieter
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To make pasta putanesca for six diners, you will need:

  • 600g of spaghettini or capellini
  • 1 red chilli
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans of tomatoes (or 600g of fresh tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato concentrate (from tube or can)
  • 200g of black olives
  • 12 anchovy fillets
  • 4 tablespoons of capers
  • Fresh oregano and parsley on demand
  • 150g of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 lime (or two, if they’re very small)

Firstly, why the two tablespoons of Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce? It’s not a traditional
component of pasta putanesca, after all. The answer is that it adds a profound blast to the
overall flavour. So feel free to use it, if you choose.

1 Begin by crushing, peeling and finely chopping the garlic.

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2 Using just half of the big red chilli, remove and discard the seeds, then finely chop the remainder.

3 Place the oily anchovy fillets on a chopping board and, with your sharpest knife, cut them into fragments.

4 Remove the pips from the olives and chop the rest. Take a generous handful each of the fresh oregano and parsley and chop the herbs finely. Retain two tablespoons each of the chopped herbs.

5 If using fresh tomatoes (not the best idea), blanch them first for 60 seconds in boiling
water, then peel them and discard the skins. Chop the tomatoes and the capers. Measure the optional Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce. Squeeze the lime and retain the juice, free of pips.

6 Ready to roll. Place the six plates in the warming drawer of your oven. Bring a large
4ℓ pot, preferably a dedicated pasta pot, to a rolling boil and lightly salt the water. Add the
pasta and let it cook for the time suggested on the packet.

When done, drain and cover.

7 Simultaneously, begin cooking the putanesca sauce using a large, heavy-based, stainless steel frying pan. Fry the garlic briefly in two tablespoons or so of olive oil. Add the anchovies, chopped chilli, tomatoes, tomato concentrate, capers, olives and oregano to the fried garlic and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time to avoid adhesions and the unwelcome consequence of burning.

8 Remove from the heat while you serve the just-cooked pasta onto the warmed plates.

9 Stir the optional Thai fish sauce and the lime juice into the sauce and add to the pasta for each diner. Garnish with parsley, black pepper and Parmesan cheese.

David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.

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