Pasta Puttanesca ala San Marzano

I”ve been making Puttanesca sauce for some years now, since first discovering it in Mark Bittman’s minimalist column in 2008. Puttanseca is a fast and easy pasta that makes a perfect weeknight dinner for hard working folk, as the prostitutes who are said to have originated the recipe well know.

But I have never before tasted a Puttanseca as good as this one, made a few weeks back after a Saturday afternoon raking leaves at the cottage. You might say it was the fall air, or the well water, or the bittersweet taste of season’s end that lent it such fabulous flavor.  I think it was all that, but mostly it was the San Marzano tomatoes, which I used for the very first time in this sauce. All I can say is Oh – My – God. How did I not know about these tomatoes before?

San Marzano are officially the best sauce tomato in Italy, grown in the Campagna region and certified authentic with the EU D.O.P. emblem, Denominazione d’Origine Protetta. However, the seeds of the San Mareno tomato have found their way across borders and the brand we used was actually grown domestically in the United States. While it lacks the DOP stamp, I can tell you these tomatoes are fabulous!

There are numerous imported brands of San Marzanos, available pretty much at any supermarket here in New York. (We got ours at Gourmet Garage). If you can’t get San Marzano’s where you live, you can order them online. I can’t wait to try this sauce again using an imported brand, though I can’t imagine it could taste any better than this.

Pasta Puttanesca

I’ve started with Bittman’s recipe, adjusting the amounts of various ingredients to my taste. You should do the same.

3 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 anchovies, straight from the can
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
3 tbsp capers, drained
black pepper and salt to taste (you won’t need much salt, if at all)
1 (28 oz) cans an Marzano plum tomatoes
chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish
1 lb linguine
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese

1. Boil the pasta water. Bring pot of water to boil and salt it.

2. Make the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons oil with garlic and anchovies in skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden.  Add tomatoes to the skillet, with salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes saucy, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and red pepper flakes, and continue to simmer.

3. Cook the pasta and toss with sauce. Cook the pasta until it is tender but not mushy. Drain quickly and toss with sauce and remaining tablespoon of oil. Taste and adjust seasonings, garnish with herbs if you like, and serve. Pass the Parmesan.

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More on Puttanesca and San Marzano Tomatoes

  • Mark Bittman makes Puttanesca in this NY Times video
  • Jamie Oliver makes a big ole Puttanesca, using dried oregano and lots of anchovies (complete with German overdubbing….)
  • Chef Lyon has a video lesson –  onions, balsamic and oven-roasted tomatoes give his Puttanesca a California feel
  • San Marzano Tomatoes – Everything you ever wanted to know
  • Natashya makes Tyler Florence’s Puttanesca and serves it with strip steak
  • Bitchin Camero makes hers with parpadelle
  • Budget Bytes calculates her Puttanseca costs at 84cents a serving, but if you use San Marzano tomatoes it’ll be a bit more (and worth every penny)

2 Responses to Pasta Puttanesca ala San Marzano

  1. Just had this tonight for dinner and we used fresh spatzel (sp?) as the pasta. Soaked up the sauce! Then I just saw this post. Great minds think alike. Been wanting to make this since I read the Little Italy lunch scene in Nelson DeMille’s Gold Coast a couple weeks ago. Great book! Your dish looks great!

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