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Puttanesea Pasta with Beans

Puttanesea Pasta with Beans


"Puttana" is Italian for a woman practicing the world's oldest profession, and "puttanesca" is a style of quick-cooked pasta sauce-created by these ladies who need to be standing somewhere besides in front of the stove. The classic version has anchovies and olives, which replace slow-cooking with earthy flavors. This version odds a can of cannellini, the white kidney beans so favored by the Tuscans. Anchovies are optional here, but the flavor adds depth to the sauce.


It's a hearty, filling dish, halfway between the cooking of a puttana and some upright Italian mama, and the beans and pasta make a perfect protein. I'll bet those working girls would have had more energy to cook if they'd put beans in their sauce.


Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound short tubular pasta shapes, such as rigatoni, penne, or even small shells

  • 1/2 cup black olives (preferably from a deli or gourmet shop, not canned)

  • One 16-ounce can cannellini beans

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes

  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (try Italian plum)

  • 4 whole anchovies, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1. Cook the pasta in a large quantity of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, pit and roughly chop the olives; drain the beans.

  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and push the garlic through a press directly into the oil. Add the chili flakes (don't breathe in over the hot pan as you do!), and stir for less than a minute until the garlic smells pungent.

  3. Add the tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with the back of a spoon. Stir in the anchovies or anchovy paste if using, the oregano, and the olives. Add the drained beans.

  4. Bring it to a boil and bubble it hard for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Taste and add salt.

  5. Scoop some of the pasta cooking water into a cup and reserve. Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet (or pour the sauce into the pasta pan if your skillet isn't big enough). If it looks a little dry, stir in some of the pasta cooking water. Toss well and serve.

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