The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as ‘spaghetti in the form of a prostitute’ so just the title lends the dish to plenty of chuckles.
A restaurant special of the day description was easily entertained by Chef meeting with the front of the house before service, embellishing the title into a story for the wait staff suggesting there must be lots of married hot to-ma-toes running around in some small town in Italy, for the dish was indicated as one women could hastily prepare for the evening meal after their afternoon soirees with the men. There was no internet. No one could confirm the story.
The colorfully fresh and bold flavors of Spaghetti in the form of a prostitute was a hit as a special of the day.
It was certainly a way to entertain the back of the house, kitchen staff, for an evening wondering how the dish might be theatrically played out in any sort of description to unsuspecting diners, most everyone enjoys good storytelling after all eh. Oh Mama Mia.
With varying dates of truth relating to the invention of its preparation in Italy, it seems that Puttanesca did not even involve females, much less prostitutes, but rather a few guys showing up at a restaurant low on ingredients at the time, who were so hungry they engaged the chef to just prepare them any sort of dish. A version of this variation is what emerged. I’ll forgo the spaghetti today, we’ll just call it Tortellini Puttanesca.
- 13 ounces tortellini, approximately 1 1/2 bags frozen tortellini
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can anchovies (approximately 2 ounces)
- 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon set aside for garnish
- 10 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1/8 cup red wine
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained, chopped
- 8 leaves fresh basil, rolled up, thinly sliced into strips
- coarse kosher salt
- fresh cracked black pepper
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese for topping each bowl
- Cook frozen tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, drain, transfer to a large bowl and toss with some olive oil, keeping warm until Puttanesca sauce is finished. On low heat add butter, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies into a medium sized saute pan, cook for two minutes then sprinkle in the parsley, stirring and continuing to cook until anchovies have melted. Tumble in the tomatoes raising heat to medium temperature warming tomatoes through, pour in the red wine, continue cooking another 3-5 minutes, reduce heat to low and simmer until the mixture is still juicy but not watery, around 12-15 minutes or so. Stir in the black olives, capers and fresh basil leaves, reserving some strips of basil for garnish. Sprinkle in a couple pinches salt and some fresh cracked pepper, stir, check seasoning, cook another 3-4 minutes until all ingredients are well blended and hot. Stir three quarters of the sauce throughout the tortellini, topping with the remaining amount. Sprinkle over remaining basil leaves and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, serve hot immediately.