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!

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