Recipe: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca! What is 'Whore’s Spaghetti’ and why should you learn to cook it?

The naughtily named spaghetti alla Puttanesca, literally whore’s spaghetti, is a perfect 'I’ve-got-nothing-in-the-fridge-and-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-go-to-the-shop’ solution. Garlic, tomato, olives, capers, chilli, spaghetti. Easy peasy.

So what’s with the name?

There are different theories. The most interesting story is that it was created by the working girls in the brothels of Naples in the 1950s, because it was cheap and fast to put together.

The other explanation makes interesting reading too. The word 'puttana' - literally ‘whore’, is often used as a general swearword, and in the case of puttanata is used to mean something like ‘bullsh*t’. A story goes that when a restauranteur in Ischia, an island in the gulf of Naples, was asked to cook for some guests, he found his cupboards bare and grudgingly told them he had nothing for them. They replied, just knock up any old ‘puttanata’ - any old crap. All he had was a few capers, olives, tomatoes etc, and Spaghetti all Puttanesca was born!

Feeling lazy? A bit skint? Want something super tasty? Knock up a Puttanesca!

Puttanesca Sauce
Serves 4

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of dry chilli flakes
  • 5 anchovies, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp of the oil from the anchovy jar
  • 6 stoneless olives, halved
  • 10 capers
  • 1 x 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes or tomato passata
  • Large pinch of finely chopped fresh parsley

1 In a frying pan, fry the garlic, anchovy and chilli flakes in the olive oil and anchovy oil on a medium heat for around 5 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned and the anchovy has mostly melted into the oil.

2 Add the tomatoes, capers and olives and simmer for another 10/15 minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Add the chopped parsley, and a little salt and pepper if it is needed. Simmer for another 2 minutes. Mix with pasta and serve!



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