That’s what my dad used to call this dish when we had it in the 1980s. A great ‘store cupboard’ dinner as barely any of the ingredients come out of the fridge, and most come from tins or jars, so it’s a dinner that you can try to ensure you’ve always got the ingredients for ready on the shelf. It’s also one of those sauces where a little goes a long way. You don’t need a lot. It’s dark, rich, concentrated, spicy, fiery, exciting… those are the words my dad would use when justifying the title. But it certainly is a family favourite and we have it often, and always with spaghetti.
A word on spaghetti. It’s the best pasta shape. Of course I’m always happy to tuck into a lasagne or some cannelloni. Penne has its place, I suppose, as do all the others, and admittedly when it comes to fresh pasta I do love ribbons, narrow or wide. But if we’re talking ‘desert island’ as we often are in our house (by which I mean the desert island questions – if you could only ever have one song, drink, ingredient etc. for the rest of your life, what would it be?), my desert island dried pasta would be spaghetti. I challenge you to convince me otherwise. (And if you want to know what my desert island ingredient would be, it’s eggs).
Oh, and in the photo above (which is what we had this evening, too late to get a photo of the plate full, evidence if evidence were needed of how popular a dinner it is) I used onion, which I often don’t use, and omitted olives, because we didn’t have any.
Sicilian Prostitute (a.k.a. Pasta Puttanesca)
E.V. Olive Oil (loads)
1 Red Onion, sliced (or leave it out as I often do)
Garlic (7 or 8 cloves, squashed and sliced)
1 or 2 Red Chillis, sliced (depending on heat)
Capers, 2 heaped tablespoons
Dried chilli flakes, (a big pinch)
Parsley, masses (stalks chopped, leaves kept back for later)
Anchovies (1 tin, chopped)
Black Olives, Kalamata (about half a big jar)
2 tins tomatoes
half a tube tomato puree
salt and pepper (lots of pepper)
Pour more oil than you think you ought to into a wide shallow pan. Then pour in some more. Warm it though and add the onion if you’re using that and let it soften before adding the garlic, chilli, capers, parsley stalks, anchovies, olives, lots of black pepper and dried chilli. Fry this around on a low heat for ten minutes or so making sure it doesn’t burn and then pour in the tomatoes and tomato puree and a splash of water. Break up the tomatoes, bring it to the boil and then drop to a low simmer and leave it for a good 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally and more frequently as the moisture evaporates. It needs to be really thick and rich. When it’s there pour over some more oil to give it a glossy sheen, sprinkle over chopped parsley, torn basil and maybe even some more dried chilli. And more black pepper.
Cook a load of spaghetti in generously salted water and really do make sure it’s underdone as it’s wants to have bite with this dish. Generously oil the drained spaghetti so it doesn’t stick to itself and serve simply a pile of pasta with a few tablespoons of this gloriously rich sauce over the top to be stirred through. More parsley and basil on the plate too of course, and more pepper. And parmesan too if you like.