Mezzi Rigatoni Puttanesca
Bob's Mezzi Rigatoni Puttanesca Recipe
Puttanesca is a flavorful sauce with a storied and colorful past. Opinions are varied and numerous as to the genesis of its name, and, well, I think I’ll let you look this up for yourself. There are also many versions of the recipe but they all have the essential ingredients of tomato, oil, garlic, capers, olives and anchovies. The version here is an easy one and one of my favorites.
In my opinion the best olives are imported. For this puttanesca I used gaetas, which are hard to find but which I’m lucky enough to buy in bulk at a long-time Italian market in Cleveland. (I’ve also found them in jars on Amazon.) The olives you use should be unpitted, flavorful and mild. You could try Taggiasca or Niçoise olives. Avoid the pungent Greek Kalamata olives, which will overpower the tomatoes. The olives also need to be easy to pit. I suggest that you make a trip to Jungle Jim’s where I believe they have an extensive olive bar (hopefully, the bar is in use at the moment). While you’re there, you can shop for many of the ingredients I’ve included in this and previous recipes: imported San Marzano tomatoes, DeCecco pasta, imported parmesan and romano cheeses and, probably, Marsala wine. Also, pick up some pancetta – say, a ¼ pound chunk, not sliced – because it’s coming up in a future recipe.
This recipe is for two people. If you need enough for more people or for leftovers, you would double everything except the oil.
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
2 anchovy filets, packed in oil
red pepper flakes, optional or to taste
½ of a 35 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, imported, with half of the can’s juice, coarsely chopped (Unused tomatoes can be frozen.)
¼ c capers, rinsed
½ c black olives, unpitted (Pit them at home.)
¼ tsp baking soda
½ c hot water
2-3 T fresh parsley, finely chopped, divided
8-10 oz mezzi rigatoni, DeCecco brand
Put a large pot of water on to boil.
Place a skillet (large enough to hold the cooked pasta) over low heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes, if using. Stir gently until the garlic begins to turn golden and the anchovies are dissolved. Add the tomatoes, increase the heat and add the capers and olives; cook for about five minutes or until the water from the tomatoes has evaporated and the sauce begins to stick to the bottom of the skillet. Add the baking soda, which will diminish the tomatoes’ acidity. Stir, remove the garlic and add the ½ c of hot water; cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Remember, this is not intended to be a saucy dish; if the sauce is still watery, turn the heat up and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile, your pot of water should be boiling. Add 1 T of salt, return to a boil and add the pasta. Stir periodically. When the pasta is nearly done, taste the sauce for salt. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the sauce. Toss the pasta to coat it, add half of the parsley and toss again. Drizzle with some olive oil, add the remaining parsley and toss again. If you want to serve cheese with the pasta, imported parmesan is your choice. Enjoy!