Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pasta Puttanesca: Fancy Food for Frugal Entertainers

This post first appeared in February 2009. HOTUS and I eat it every Valentine's Day. It's dang good.

I’ve learned many things since moving out on my own (make the bed, don’t do drugs, etc.), but perhaps none have been as vital as the following excerpt from a 2003 life skills instruction manual. It was written by a wise, wonderful, unassuming literary icon (note: me) upon her brother’s college graduation, in hopes of inspiring him to put pants on:

“Learn to be at least marginally entertaining. Even if you are aggressively anti-social or covered in boils, the time will come when people want to see you. You must be prepared. Clean your place and don’t leave them to entertain themselves.”

See, with great power (adulthood) comes great responsibility (hosting friends and family). And occasionally, that means feeding people.

Which is why sometimes, in my darkest hours, when all else seems lost, I turn to Rachael Ray. I have conflicting feelings about RR, mostly because she invented “yummo,” which should be banned from all lexicons, everywhere. Still, she knows how to please a crowd. And I respect that.

I respect this Pasta Puttanesca, too. The recipe comes from an episode of 30-Minute Meals called “Quick Italian Classics,” and for the time involved, it’s outstanding. I made it for The Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and we almost had babies on the spot. (We didn’t though, Ma.)

Beyond the salty, briny wonder, the best thing about it is the serving size. It will feed roughly 3,000,000 people, and impress at least 2,999,990 of them. When you’re entertaining as a young’un, quality and quantity are good to have.

Should you try it on your own, know the following:

1) If you’re averse to seafood or olives, run far, far, far away. Don’t look back. Then stop and take a breath. Then start running again.

2) Just to restate: this is A LOT OF FREAKING FOOD. The Food Network site claims this will make four servings, which might be true if you live in a family of insatiable giants. In my phenomenally humble opinion, it’ll serve a minimum of six, especially if you include garlic bread or a salad or something.

(THINGS TO PONDER: Can one claim to be “phenomenally humble”? It’s essentially saying you’re the absolute best at being modest, which negates the whole thing. Discuss.)

3) For kicks, we added a drained can of quartered artichoke hearts. (The Boyfriend loves ‘em.) They’re not listed in the original recipe, and are only included as an option here, because they’re somewhat pricey (but highly suggested).

4) I used half black olives and half kalamata. BECAUSE I COULD. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

So, next time you're forced to feed a crowd, consider the Puttanesca. It could be a valuable part of your adulthood.

Pasta Puttanesca
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from Rachael Ray.

1 pound spaghetti 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
A few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
OPTIONAL: 1 14.5-oz can artichoke heart quarters, drained

1) Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) In a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper and heat over medium heat. Cook about 3 minutes, until anchovies are completely dissolved. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley (and artichoke hearts, if using). Once it starts to bubble, drop the heat to medium-low and cook 8 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add pasta to pan. Toss to coat. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.23
4 to 6 cloves garlic: 22 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.20
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained: 119 calories, 5.5 g fat, $1.59
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
20 oil-cured black olives: 175 calories, 15 g fat, $1.84
3 tablespoons capers: 6 calories, 0.2 g fat, $1.64
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes: 279 calories, 0 g fat, $0.98
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained: 82 calories, 0 g fat, $1.19
A few grinds black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped: negligible calories and fat, $0.49
1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente (with a bite): 1680 calories, 8 g fat, $0.80
TOTAL: 2602 calories, 55.8 g fat, $9.00
PER SERVING: 434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

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