The Noodle Slut

April 2, 2011



Recently, I was home alone at dinnertime. Hubs and the girls were in Texas, attending my SIL’s baby shower, and Awesome Stepkid R. was at the movies with friends. I can’t even tell you how completely freaking weird it felt. Me. Empty house. Dinner time. Bizarro.

I realized that I could make and eat whatever the heck I wanted to eat. No finicky palates to consider, no sneaking of the vegetables, no pleas for bland food. Hot damn.

Because I am a lazy slob, I actually considered making myself one of my trademark single-girl meals, which are so shameful and weird that I only scarf them on the sly.

TKW’s Trademark Single-Girl Meals:

-a bowl of steaming basmati rice, swirled with chopped tomato and slivers of red onion, topped with shards of very strong bleu cheese, salted and peppered. Sometimes with a drizzle of balsamic.

-bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado (the microwave thick-cut bacon, so don’t go getting all impressed that I made fresh bacon) on a toasted english muffin

-any leftover about to go bad in the next day

-pimiento-jalapeno cheese from Whole Foods on a toasted english muffin, topped with a tomato

-ultimate comfort food: a big bowl of Uncle Ben’s converted rice, buttered and salted to death

Seriously. Those are the meals that, if left to my own devices, I greedily consume. But I was out of jalapeno-pimiento cheese (alors!) and the English muffins had died a hard and ugly death in the bread box. For once, I didn’t have any leftover rice in the refrigerator.

I was tempted to pout, but then I spied a deli container loafing in the corner of of the meat drawer. A deli container that held two of my essential food groups: salt and brine.

Olives.

Plump, imported, luscious olives.

Full disclosure: When I saw the olives, I considered just eating them out of the container accompanied by a big hunk of Fontina and a fistful of Triscuits. Sorely tempted.

But I can’t always be a lazy slob, so I chopped some tomatoes and herbs, tossed in chiles and olives, plopped in some freshly drained pasta and then went to town on it with the cheese. Viola! Pasta Puttanesca.

It was just what I wanted. Fresh, sharp, spicy and cheesy.

I will confess to one oddity: After I scooped up my portion, I immediately parceled the rest into Tupperware containers and placed them in the refrigerator.

I know myself too well. I cannot be trusted around pasta. When faced with a giant bowl of pasta, I become an insatiable slut. A noodle trollop. It’s a sickness.

I took my reasonably-portioned feast to the couch, hung out with my friend TiVo, and had a delicious time.  And no, I did not sneak back to the refrigerator and twist some barely warm Puttanesca into my mouth, hunkered over the sink.  Such behavior is downright shameless.


There are several theories I’ve heard about the naming of this dish, Pasta Puttanesca (whore’s pasta).  One theory is that the sauce for this spicy pasta is so pungent that Italian ladies of the night used to leave it bubbling on the stove, hoping to entice men in from the streets.

Another story I’ve heard is that this pasta is so quick to prepare that putas could eat it on the fly, between customers.

And yet another idea swirling in the mix is that the ingredients for this dish are so humble and inexpensive, even the poorest of working girls could afford to eat well.

In my opinion, all of these stories have merit.

Fish Phobes: do not fear the anchovies in this sauce–you honestly won’t taste them in the finished product. Anchovies, when toasted in olive oil, get melty and nutty and delicious. There won’t be a fishy flavor to your sauce–you’ll just taste something salty and fantastic in the background…kind of like Parmesan on steriods.

This is a rustic, warming meal that will soothe the grumpiest–and laziest–of bellies.  If you fear the spice, add just a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce; I like zingy, so I added double the amount called for in the recipe. I’m racy that way.

Pasta Puttanesca

serves 4-6 (ah, who am I kidding? 4)


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 small anchovy fillets, minced or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste

1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano

salt and pepper

1/2 to 1 cup meaty green and black olives, pitted and halved

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil, chopped

1 pound linguine or spaghetti, cooked

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the anchovies and olive oil, stirring to break up the anchovies. Cook the anchovies until toasted and completely broken down, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the chile flakes and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen up any brown bits. Add the tomatoes and liquid, crushing by hand or using the back of a spoon to break up the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until thickened and saucy. Stir in the olives and capers; heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss cooked, drained pasta into the sauce in the saucepan, turning to coat all of the pasta. If mixture seems dry, add some of the pasta cooking water to the sauce by ladlefuls. Toss parsley in and, if desired, top with grated Parmesan cheese and a few extra sprinkles of chile flakes.

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

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