back to the garden

a year of greener thinking

Pasta Puttanesca

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I just realized that I officially kicked off Lent with pasta puttanesca, the pasta of “streetwalkers,” as the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook calls it. Legend has it these Italian ladies of the night would cook up steaming plates of pasta puttanesca to lure customers in off the street. Fortunately, if you don’t add asiago, this savory and spicy dish also could be the pasta of vegan streetwalkers (or even law students) and is a great choice for chilly Chicago nights. It makes fantastic leftovers (just make sure you add a bit of olive oil to the noodles so they don’t dry out), so you can enjoy it all week.  Buon appetito!

Penne with Puttanesca Sauce, adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook

  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 15 large calamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 pound whole-wheat penne
  • A few fresh parsley sprigs (optional)
  • Grated asiago cheese (optional – the dish is great without it – but I would provide it for any guests who just can’t live without cheese on their pasta.)

1. Combine the onions, garlic, and oil in a saucepan, cover and saute for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. While the onions cook, chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes, capers, olives and parsley. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes or a little longer.

3. When the sauce has cooked for 10 to 15 minutes, bring a large covered pot of water and sea salt to a boil. Add the penne and cook for about 7 minutes, until al dente. Drain and serve immediately with the sauce. If you wish, top with parsley sprigs and sprinkle with grated asiago.

Soundtrack: Juan de Marcos González and Ry Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club (for cooking), and Béla Fleck, Tales from the Acoustic Planet (for eating)

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