Culinary Experiment #7: Pasta Puttanesca

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I don’t always write about savory recipes but when I do…they’re pretty awesome.

Seriously. After this recipe, I definitely feel inspired to cook more “real meals” instead of desserts or tiny appetizers.

When it comes to preparing food, I’m more of a dessert person. If there’s a party, I’m the one most likely to bring the sweet stuff. I love baking and it just comes naturally to me.

Main courses, on the other hand, don’t usually pique my interest enough for me to want to make them. Sure, I might drool over photos of them on Foodgawker like everyone else, but I hardly ever experiment with cooking new dinner dishes myself.

Also, I’ve had a few bad experiences with preparing savory foods. The spices would be all wrong, the texture would be gross and I’d just be standing there in the kitchen trying to salvage a hopeless dinner, having wasted an hour of my life and bunch of ingredients.

But then this spicy diva known as Pasta Puttanesca sashayed her way into my kitchen. At first I was skeptical. There were   a lot of ingredients. And I’d just come home from work, so I was super-tired. But as everything came together, it was just so…pretty. A myriad of colors and textures. Vibrant reds and greens and golden caramels.

The sauce in a Pasta Puttanesca is not just some simple, smooth pasta sauce. It’s chunky yet light. It’s earthy with just the right amount of heat. It has a tendency to be a bit brine-y, but a bit of dark brown sugar will soften that salty bite.

This sauce, if it were a lady, would be sultry, dramatic and fierce. It’s also very versatile. I can see it as a main course for either a girls’ night in or a romantic dinner for two. (Maybe use a touch less garlic if cooking for the latter though.)

A few recipe notes:

  1. Technically, I didn’t mince the garlic like it says to in the recipe. I had a jar of readily chopped garlic and just used that instead. It tasted great to me and didn’t seem to overpower the other ingredients. But I do like garlic and I don’t mind biting into a piece of it. I think the danger here though, as I’ve read recently on the America’s Test Kitchen website, is that bigger pieces of garlic are more likely to burn and turn bitter as you saute them with the onions and continue to cook the sauce after the tomatoes are added. But I think if you’re constantly stirring anyway and you keep an eye on it, it should work out fine and it won’t burn.
  2. When you get to the part of the recipe when you have to let the sauce simmer on low heat, be mindful of how hot your stove gets on the “Low” setting. My stove doesn’t get hot enough on the “Low” setting to actually simmer the sauce and so I had to turn up the heat to what’s considered “Medium” heat on my stove, 5. Like my mom says: “If it’s not bubbling, it’s not simmering.” Keeping this in mind is the difference between a great Pasta Puttanesca sauce and a weird gazpacho dumped onto your angel hair pasta.
  3. Presentation: You don’t have to place a scoop of this sauce onto a bed of pasta like I did in some of my photos. I just did that because the sauce is really the star of this dish and this post and I wanted to show off as much of it as I could. I personally think the dish tastes better when it’s all mixed up. You can even mix the pasta and the sauce in the skillet and serve it that way.
  4. I love shredded Parmesan cheese. You don’t have to top your Pasta Puttanesca with it. But I did and I love how it makes the pasta cheesy and adds a bit of creaminess to this spicy dish.

This is my fifteenth post! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one and the other ones I’ve posted. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories!

I’d also like to thank Beth M. of  Budget Bytes  for posting this recipe.

I hope you all have a lovely day!

Have List, Will Travel

Lake Lanier, Photo Credit: © Anita George 2012

I love lists.

Checklists. To-do lists. Grocery lists.

There’s something oddly satisfying about crossing items off of them. Especially if it’s a particularly annoying or difficult task.

But when I’m putting together social events, fun activities or recipes, my favorite part is making the list of stuff I need to have prepared.

I know. I’m like that kid who had way more fun with the box the super-expensive toy came in than the actual toy. Whatever. I’m okay with that. Really, it’s like I recieved two presents. Double the awesome. So there.

I think it’s the anticipation. It’s like this giddy feeling that bubbles up when the creative juices are flowing and I’m super excited for new experiences.

Ok, I know my love for lists is borderline wrong and about five kinds of awkward.

So…

I’m Anita George and I’m a planner. And I’m not sorry.

Because lists are awesome. Especially when you publish them for the world to see. Why?

1.) Things are more likely to get done if you tell everyone on Facebook you’re going to accomplish them. People WILL ask follow up questions. And depending on the goal you mentioned, they might even get inspired enough to want join you in your endeavor. This is super useful for personal goals you’ve had trouble starting. When I wanted to stop consuming caffeine for a few weeks, I announced it on Facebook. And now my friends make sure I remember to abstain.

2.)  Making your list public will help you develop your goals and add to them. I created a bucket list of hobbies a while ago. It’s basically a collection of ideas for new activities to try from my friends and things I’ve personally always wanted to do. One day, I posted a note explaining my dire need of new hobbies and my friends commented on it with their suggestions. And the list keeps growing because whenever I meet someone new and amazing I just tag them in the note and they talk about their favorite hobbies or personal goals.

So in honor of my love for lists, I’m posting a new one right here. It’s my Travel Bucket List.

Now, if you were to look at my life (or my passport), at first glance you’d think this woman does not like to travel. Maybe planes freak her out or maybe she just has no interest in other places outside of her country.

None of that is true. Ok, so maybe the last time I’ve been out of the country was when I was ten for a family trip to India. And it’s possible that the last time I’ve left the state was during my junior year of college for a journalism conference.

But I do love flying. Loved it when I was kid, and I want to do it again. I was probably the only kid who flew coach who had a fabulous time on the plane without needing to be bribed with those kiddie pilot wings and a visit to the cockpit.

(Do they even still do that anymore? I don’t even know. It’s been that long. And so most of my notions about planes are colored by my experiences as a 10-year-old and sitcoms.)

I also have a desire to see the world. I’ve got a pretty long list of places I want to visit as you’ll see soon.

I just haven’t been able to make it a financial priority. Growing up in my family, it just wasn’t always financially feasible. So as a kid, I always thought I’d travel while in college, preferably on some study abroad program. But reality set in and most of my money went towards living and educational expenses.

But now I’m at a point in my life where I’m able to plan out a travel budget and really do things right.

I want to make traveling a priority in my life. I don’t want it be something I just say I’ll do and never follow up on.

Also, I’d love to hear your travel stories and tips on some of the places I want to go. Or suggestions on new places for me to visit. You can be as specific as you want or as broad as you want: It’s totally up to you.

So without further delay, here’s my Travel Bucket List:

  1. Valencia/Barcelona/Madrid, Spain
  2. Rome/Florence/Venice/Milan, Italy
  3. Sicily
  4. Greece
  5. Portugal
  6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  7. Ireland
  8. Moscow, Russia
  9. London, England
  10. Germany
  11. Budapest
  12. New York City
  13. Boston, Mass.
  14. Las Vegas, NV
  15. Brazil
  16. Hartford, CT
  17. Argentina
  18. Panama
  19. Puerto Rico
  20. Thailand
  21. India (again)
  22. Australia
  23. Charleston, South Carolina
  24. San Diego, CA
  25. Los Angeles, CA
  26. Florida
  27. France

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to let me know what you thought of this post. I hope you have a lovely day!