Saturday, 29 December 2007

Spaghetti puttanesca (Μακαρονάδα πουτανέσκα)

Often when we go away on holiday, we come back wanting to eat something we really enjoyed while we were away. Here's a dish we ate every night in the same pizzeria during our mini-break in Paleohora during the summer. I used the one at mediterrasian, (minus the anchovies). All genuine puttanesca recipes are a variation of this one. I've been making spaghetti puttanesca so often since September that I've developed my own recipe now, and have established it in our weekly pasta slot so that it is now a firm favorite on a Saturday morning. My children even coined a new word for this pasta; they found it easier (and possibly closer to the Greek language) to say 'poutanezika' (rhymes with 'kinezika' = chinese) than 'puttanesca', much to our delight; their version sounds more like something meaning 'like a prostitute'. We cracked up no end. Unfortunately, it has lost its vegetarian aspect, partly due to my carnivorous husband; I really do put my foot down about his red meat intake. But I give up when I'm too tired, and this is the kind of meal you cook on a day when you really are too tired to cook. I have tried freezing this sauce, but it's not worth the effort; tomato based sauce thaws out more like a soup than a sauce. The texture doesn't seem to keep so well. I recommend doing this for the bachelor type. In any case, it is that simple to make, and as it doens't involve meat (unless you optionally add sausage or bacon bits), it cooks very quickly, unlike spag bog, known as makaronada in Greece; I always let teh mince cook for at least an hour on slow heat for the flavours to blend.

You need:
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, minced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, finely chopped
1 spicy sausage, finely sliced OR 1 small packet of bacon, finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons of pickled capers
15 black pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
250g fresh tomato, pulped
salt, pepper and oregano to taste
Pour the oil into a saucepan, and saute the onion, pepper (we love this in any red sauce) and garlic in it till soft. Add the chopped bacon and/or sausage (unless you want to keep it lenten, and omit both) into the pot, and cook it till the meat has lost its raw red look. Now add the capers and olives, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir this altogether until all the ingredients are well-oiled. Now add the pureed tomatoes to make a thick sauce. Sometimes tomatos tend to be too firm (and too expensive in winter) to be used as a soup or sauce base; if this is the case, I add some tomato paste liquidised in water to thicken the sauce, and you can also use tinned tomato if you don't have access to ripe red tomatos in the supermarket. Let the sauce simmer away for about 20-30 minutes, and there you are: a lovely red vegetarian (or not) sauce for some plain boiled spaghetti. I didn't add chili pepper as the original recipe stated - definitely not a child-friendly ingredient; I have also used chopped up roasted red bell pepper instead of green pepper in the past. Sprinkle some grated cheese over each serving for extra protein, and don't forget the white wine. A quick and easy lazy Saturday lunch. Puttanesca is one of the few dishes which call for cooked olives.

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