Monday, January 16, 2012

Recipe: Puttanesca Bianca

This is a repost of a blog post from 2010. Enjoy!

I bought a bag of dried pasta a few weeks ago, and there was a recipe on the back of the bag. Now, generally, these recipes are ridiculously simple and not always that good. They are, after all, on the back of a bag of pasta.

But, this pasta was Italian (!), with actual Italian writing on it. So, naturally, I thought, “well this recipe must be good.”

And you know what. It was!

The recipe itself is rather simple, although I jazzed it up a bit. And with the addition of the olives and the capers it turns into a Puttanesca sauce, only without the tomatoes. Hence, Puttanesca Bianca.
The puttanesca sauce is a rather recent Italian invention, in the Neapolitan style, dating from either the 1950’s or 1960’s. And “alla puttanesca” can be literally translated to “whoreish sauce.” The earliest written reference of this pasta sauce is from a 1961 novel Ferito a morte (The Mortal Wound) by Raffaele La Capria. However, the actual dish is said to have been the brainchild of Sandro Petti, a co-owner of an Ischian (Ischia is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Naples) restaurant. As the story goes, Petti was asked to make dinner for his friends one night, but found he had no food. So, he used what he had; “four tomatoes, a couple of capers, and some olives.”
The result: the pasta puttanesca! (source Do Bianchi)

So here is, with some Madstone additions the new and improved recipe for Puttanesca Bianca (c/o my bag of pasta).
Puttanesca Bianca
Olive Oil
1 small to medium onion- diced
6 cloves of garlic (or however much you like)
3-4 anchovy fillets- chopped up
½ Chili Pepper (or 1 tsp Chili flakes)
¼ cup pitted black olives
2 tbsp Capers
½ cup white wine
Spices to taste: Pepper*, oregano, basil, parsley
Pasta of choice
Parmesan Cheese
*You don’t need to add much salt to this recipe; the olives make it plenty salty.

1) Throw you olive oil into a pan. Toss a few pieces of onion in as well, when they start to sizzle slightly then you know you oil is hot enough. Through the rest of the onion in. Now, at this point I part ways from the traditional puttanesca; you see, I caramelize my onions. If you don’t have the extra 20minutes to ½ hour it will take to do this, just continue on. If, however, you do, then I would recommend caramelizing the onions. It really adds an amazing level of sweetness to the dish, which works really well with the spiciness of the chili and the saltiness of the olives and capers.

1a) To caramelize the onions: thrown them in your pan, with your olive oil, at a constant, low- medium heat. Toss some salt in on top. The salt with act as a moisture absorber, which should caramelize the onions faster. Then, wait. Toss the pan every once in a while – we don’t want the onions to burn, but if some of the pieces start to crisp up don’t worry. About 15minutes in (depending on how they are tasting) I toss some sugar into the pan as well. This will speed up the process.

2) Once your onions have been caramelized add in your garlic, chili and anchovies. If you are adding in any spices feel free to add half of them in at this point. Cook until the anchovy pieces have turned translucent and almost disappeared.

3) Once the anchovies have cooked out add in your olives and capers (I will sometimes thrown in another vegetable of choice here- add it in now. Broccoli, Rapini, Spinach, Zucchini, feel free to mix it up! But stick to one ingredient- this is a simple dish). Cook for about 5 minutes longer.

4) Add in your ½ cup of white wine (I like to eyeball this part), and your other herbs and pepper. I love adding fresh basil to my pasta. But dried oregano will work. As will fresh or dried parsley. Cook for another 20ish minutes, or until the white wine has cooked out.

5) Mix in your cooked pasta (anything will work with this sauce, as it isn’t really very ‘saucy.’ Rather, this will make a drier kind of pasta sauce). Grate in some Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
If you wanted to make this a more traditional sauce, I would not caramelize the onions, add in a can of whole Italian tomatoes (dice the whole tomatoes before you throw them in), and some red wine, instead of white, for a different variation on this dish.

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