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
4 whole anchovies, or 2 teaspoons anchovy
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Cook the pasta in a large quantity of
boiling salted water. Meanwhile, pit and roughly chop the olives; drain
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.
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
Bring it to a boil and bubble it hard for
about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Taste and add
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.