Friday, July 19, 2013

Some traditions are tasty, like the food of the whores.

Well that's the story anyway, not necessarily reality, but when the story surpasses the truth, then for all intents and purposes, it is the truth.  The story here is that after a long night of servicing their customers, the local ladies of the night throughout the great country of Italy, would go to their cupboards and take out the staples that every person in Italy kept on hand and made this dish to eat before retiring for the daytime hours to be refreshed and ready to take on their customers in their chosen profession for the next evening. 

It's called Pasta Puttanesca.  Or translated, quite literally, pasta of the whores.  It is one of my favorite dishes of all time, it is spectacularly flavorful and ranges throughout the whole gamut of flavors, from salty to sweet, to an indescribably oceanic flavor to heady richness of olives, to supple depth of rich red wine.  It is yummy.  There are hundreds of variations, this is just about my favorite, cuz it is easy and the results are impressive.

First, take a pound of good whole wheat pasta and cook according to package directions.  While that is going on, in a large skillet start the sauce.  Take about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until shimmering, then add in four fillets of anchovies and cook until they melt.  Add about ten or more sliced cloves of garlic.  You can crush it in a press, just watch close so it doesn't burn.  Then add a half a red onion that you cut into half inch dice.  Yeah, large dice is good here.  Then add a half cup of sliced Pepperoncini peppers, with some of the liquid.  Add a cup of good red wine.  Now, add a half cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Allow to cook a minute or two for the tomatoes to pick up some of the wine.  Add a half cup of sliced Kalamata olives and if you have them, sliced pimento stuffed green olives.  Rough chop a whole bunch of basil leaves and add.  Drain the pasta and add it in, toss well and serve with grated hard cheese over it all.  An alternative is to add a big can of crushed tomatoes before adding the pasta, that gives it a similar texture to a regular marinara, for those that like the Americanized version of Italian food. 

Someday I would love to travel to Italy and find out if real Italians eat marinara.  It just seems to me that most great Italian food doesn't have red sauce on it.  From what I have read, it is a product of southern Italy and in limited areas at that.  Most of the foods there, except in tourist traps, cooks the traditional fresh way with quick sauces, fresh tomatoes and stuff like the recipe above.  That's how I learned to cook and although in the old days, I did make a pretty mean marinara, it isn't something that I really like to eat.  I make my lasagna with white sauces for the most part, they seem to allow for more complexity of flavor components that I enjoy.  Marinara is just, rich and unless you pump it up with peppers and a couple herbs, all the other flavors get lost behind the tomato.  Maybe it's just me, but try this dish without the canned tomatoes and see what you think.  Eat like a whore, it might be good for you.

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