Spaghetti alla puttanesca, and an anniversary story

by Stephanie Weaver on January 14, 2013

Pasta Alla Puttanesca, vegan and gluten-freeFifteen years ago this week, my sweetie came over for dinner. We had met four months before, seen each other a few times, but hadn’t clicked. I called and invited him for dinner. He asked what he could bring. I told him a can of sliced black olives, the only ingredient I was missing for this recipe. I can still remember him walking in my apartment door carrying a small arrangement of flowers, and pulling the can of olives out of his pocket with a smile.

I had wanted to make something easy, so I paged through one of my favorite little cookbooks, The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, and found this recipe. It includes a great story about the origin of the recipe: spaghetti alla puttanesca translates to “Whore’s Spaghetti.” Italian brothels were state-owned in the 1950s, and the civil servants were only allowed to shop one day per week. So the ladies became experts at making quick dinners from what was easily found in the pantry: canned sardines, tinned tomatoes, capers, olives, and olive oil.

I made the pasta, he pronounced it delicious, jumped up and did the dishes, offered to let me drive his new car, and invited me to a Rolling Stones concert. And that was that.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart.

The renovation: I’ve used gluten-free brown rice spaghetti, and added nori (seaweed) to provide that briny taste in place of the anchovies. Recipe adapted from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca
Serves 4

8 oz (250 g) gluten-free spaghetti
2 T. (10 g) kosher salt
2 T. (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle
3 large cloves garlic
1 sheet nori, optional
14 oz. (400 g) Italian plum tomatoes, no salt added
1-1/2 C. (6 oz./120 g) pitted sliced black olives
4 T. (60 g) capers
1 bunch parsley

Pre-wash and spin dry the parsley.

Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut up the nori into tiny pieces and set aside.

Smash the garlic cloves under the flat blade of a large chef’s knife and remove the papery skin. Finely mince the garlic.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, covered, and add 2 T. (10 g) kosher or sea salt.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, bring back to a boil, and add a few drops of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Using a wooden spoon keeps the pasta intact. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon, and cook until al dente.

Before draining, add about 1/4 C. (60 ml) of pasta water to the sauce, stirring well. The starch from the pasta water helps the sauce cling to the pasta.

Drain the pasta and rinse briefly with cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil, shaking the colander to drain the water and stirring to coat the strands.

While the water is coming to a boil and you are cooking the pasta:
Add olive oil to a large skillet or saute pan on medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, turn down the heat to medium-low, adding the garlic and the minced nori. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, olives, and capers, stir well. Turn up the heat to medium. Cook the sauce until the pasta is done.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce.

Finely chop the parsley, then toss with the pasta.

All of our recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and made with plant-based ingredients to help you build a healthy life. We support Meatless Monday. Look for midweek essays and Friday giveaways (when available).

Required FTC disclosure: The fat juicy capers were provided by Roland Foods. I was not paid to write this post.

This is one of my favorite little cookbooks; so glad that it’s still in print!

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