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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to School

I like school, other than the fact that I have nightmares about it.

That's not totally true.

I like learning, particularly about things that help me out not at all in the real world.  Offer me a class about cooking, wine, theatre or literature and I'd be there.  I'm convinced that I'm going back to school to either become a chef or a sommelier later in my life.

It's just math classes and not remembering my locker combination that feature in my nightmares.  A psychologist could almost certainly have a field day with this, but occasionally I have nightmares about being unable to remember my locker combination, failing a math test or forgetting to drop a class until the end of a term.  Hmm.

But I do love learning, and with this in mind I went to check out a new-ish cooking school on Tuesday night and dragged David (quite a good cook in his own right) with me.  I wasn't sure what to expect, other than the class was Italian Food.

The problem was that it was cooking for beginners, which was great for most of the people there.  The instructor was friendly and boiled things down to the basics, but once I caught that there wasn't much to be learned I played around with making the perfect puttanesca sauce.  I make sauces all the time that are almost puttanesca, but this time I was going to follow the recipe to the letter.  Except, you know, for adding an extra anchovy, which I totally recommend.

Fun fact:  puttanesca means "like a whore" and is named for the dish that (ahem) prostitutes would make between clients.

The photos show sauce for one, but I've quadrupled it for a standard size recipe.

Too-Easy-For-Words Puttanesca Sauce
Adapted from Let's Cook Alaska and

4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 anchovies packed in oil, rinsed and chopped
4 cups good-quality crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped black olives
2 tbsp. capers, drained
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped or 1 tbsp. dried
1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
12 oz. dried spaghetti
Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper

Start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta;  when it reaches a boil, salt it well and add the pasta.

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  After a minute, add the garlic, anchovies, red pepper and a pinch of salt.  SautĂ© for up to two minutes, until the garlic is just golden.  Be careful not to overcook.

Add the crushed tomatoes, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon, along with the olives and capers.  Turn the heat to low, add the oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is done to your taste (I prefer mine al dente, which usually means less than 10 minutes boiling time), drain well and add to the saucepan.  Toss with tongs and add salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.

Sorry for the blurry quality of the photo;  the light was not good in the dining room.  The chopped salad was terrific--I'll post that recipe soon, too.
Serves 4 people, or 2 with plenty of leftovers.

Variations:  For a strictly vegetarian dish, omit the anchovies.  If you are a cheese lover, you could grate fresh parmesan over the pasta.

Food/wine pairing:  Chianti, baby.


  1. When I lived in Sicily I heard of pasta Puttanesca. The "working women" made this dish also to lure customers in...

    It's really tasty and we make it all the time!

  2. I love puttanesca sauce! So tasty and yours looks delicious!

  3. Such a delicious, easy version! I still have those school nightmares and I haven't taken a class in decades! I hope you find the perfect cooking class~

  4. I like the salad, very healthy and easy to make.

  5. Puttanesca is a favorite of mine! I love the salty capers and the heat from the red pepper flakes. Cheers to that Chianti pairing!

  6. Man, that is easy! And it sounds so delicious too! This is certainly a week night meal must-try!