Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pasta Puttanesca (2)

I've shared a pasta puttanesca post in the past. I mentioned in that post that there is some debate on what ingredients are supposed to be tossed into the sauce. Frankly, I think that if whores were really making this pasta, they weren't going to be fancy snobs about their ingredients. I think that whatever was in the pantry is what ended up in the sauce. And that is the philosophy I took on the particular day that I decided to document this recipe (again).

We had eggplants and mushrooms begging to be used (as they were about to go off) and I found a pathetic amount of cherry peppers sitting in the bottom of a lonely jar in the back of the fridge so I just went with it.
Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]:
1 lb. pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6 anchovy fillets
½ teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
½ onion, diced
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 baby eggplant, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons chopped pickled hot cherry peppers (or olives)
8 oz. can tomato sauce
+ parmesan shavings

Start by prepping the mise en place. Slice up some garlic, dice the onion, slice the jalapeno, and dice the eggplant.
Grab a wide and shallow pan and add in a good glug of olive oil. Turn the heat up to medium and add in the sliced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and anchovies. Let the pan heat up and allow the garlic to sizzle for a bit. Then, use a spoon to stir the ingredients around and watch the anchovies "disintegrate" into the oil. I think this is a crucial step. Fat carries flavor really well (which is why flavored oils exist) so imparting all of this good garlicky, spicy, salty elements into the oil to start will ensure that the sauce is really flavorful.
Add the onions, jalapenos, and eggplant to the pan, stirring after the addition of each ingredient to make sure everything gets well coated in the delicious oil. Allow the eggplant to get soft and then add in the mushrooms. Eggplant and mushroom tend to act like sponges, so if the first few pieces look like they've soaked up all of the oil, you can always add a little more to the pan.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook until the tomatoes start to break down. Then, add in the capers and chopped cherry peppers. Stir before pouring in the tomato sauce.
The sauce is basically done at this point. The goal is to allow it to simmer so some of the moisture can evaporate and thicken the sauce and the flavors meld together and develop.
While the sauce is going, you can put together the rest of your meal and get a pot on to boil.

I slapped together some protein to accompany the meal. I seasoned some pork chops with salt, pepper, rosemary, and slices of garlic. Then, I popped it the pan into a 400F oven and roasted the pork for about 10 minutes.
I also put together this simple salad of arugula and tomatoes, which I later dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
When the pasta pot comes to a boil, salt it generously and add in the pasta. Cook until just shy of being al dente.
This is just a habit of mine, but I always like to reserve a little pasta water, in case the dish gets a bit too thick.
Drain the slightly undercooked noodles and then toss them in the sauce. The heat of the sauce will finish cooking the pasta to al dente, yielding the perfect dish.
Add in a splash of pasta water, if necessary.
And that's the pasta, done.
I had some parmesan shavings at the ready to top off the dishes. I suggest you do the same.
Pile the dish with a generous serving of pasta and sprinkle on some cheese. Nestle on your protein of choice, and serve immediately.
The flavors of the sauce are so complex and yet, this dish feels so rustic and simple. It's a little spicy, kind of briny, and slightly sweet. Obviously, not all of the ingredients are necessary - I think this would have been equally delicious without the eggplant or mushroom - but I like that you can basically toss in whatever you want and as long as you have the flavorful oil base and some quality tomatoes, you end up with an amazing meal.
Here's the recipe page:

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