The Hooker's Special - Pasta a la Puttanesca

Yup, you read it right. Hooker's style pasta. And it's no too far off the mark. During the Italian campaign of World War II, when hordes of horny GIs reach Naples, the local working girls (and by that I mean the pros) found themselves swamped with customers. Now, it takes a lot of effort to keep the brothel running under such trying conditions. The ladies need sustenance that will provide enough energy to keep them going at full tilt. So, some enterprising individual came up with this recipe that could be prepared with a minimum of effort and provide a quick supper for the girls, in-between turning tricks, or servicing the servicemen, as it were.

American soldiers are no longer crawling all over Napoli, but the dish remained, and is now claimed by almost every Italian city where the ladies of the night ply their trade. And yes, the name has remained, Pasta a la Puttanesca, "Whore's Style Pasta."


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, slice into rings
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped (can use good quality Italian canned tomatoes, if preferred)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (2 oz.) anchovies packed in oil, chopped fine
1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 pound fusilli or rigatoni (or other large tube-shaped pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Freshly grated Romano, Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan (I prefer cast iron). Add onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two.
2. Add tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the anchovies along with their oil. Stir in olives, capers, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to mix and simmer over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl. Toss with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Top with the Puttanesca sauce, sprinkle the parsley on top, and serve with the grated cheese.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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