My father-in-law LOVES anchovies. And he LOVES olives. And he LOVES capers. I wasn’t a fan of these growing up. Over the years I have acquired a taste for many an ingredient, including the ones my father-in-law loves. Long ago when I first married his daughter, he sat me down and said I needed to try anchovies. I grimaced and kicked up a fuss but he told me you can’t really judge a food if you haven’t tried it in the proper application. Turns out he was right. I first tried the anchovy by itself and my first impression was, “Hey, it tastes like a salty piece of fish that’s been left out to go rancid”. But then I tried it on pizza. It wasn’t so bad. Actually, it was pretty good. That was years ago. I’ve acquired the taste for a good anchovy pizza. What can I say?
I have similar stories with olives. Olives were difficult for me at first, until I paired them with cheese. Whoa! What a combo! The key is to find the proper pairings for your foods, to find with what other ingredients they work best.
I’ve since come to crave these ingredients, and especially with the wonderful Puttanesca sauce. Talk about a perfect combination. Puttanesca literally translates from Italian to “In the style of the whore”. Ladies of the night used to make this sauce to entice men into their abodes. It would have worked on me! I’ve made variations of this dish a dozen times now and it just keeps getting better and better. I like to include pancetta with mine for even more flavor, though it can get a bit salty, which my father-in-law LOVES. Here is my version of the recipe.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 1 large Italian sweet pepper chopped (or use several jalapeno peppers, chopped - red ones if you have them)
- 6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta if desired
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 2- ounce tin flat anchovy fillets drained
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup black olives pitted and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 4 pounds fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped (or about 60 odd ounces of crushed tomatoes from cans) – I still have tomatoes from my garden!
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 1 pound bucatini noodles spaghetti is good, too
- Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Heat a large pan to medium heat and add olive oil. Heat through.
Add onion and peppers. Cook about 5 minutes to soften.
Add the pancetta and cook another 5 minutes. Or until the pancetta crisps. Break apart with a spoon.
Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring often.
Add anchovies, red pepper flakes and olives. Mash the anchovies and stir until they incorporate into the mixture.
Add tomatoes, black pepper, parsley and basil. Mix well.
Cover and cook about 15-20 minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break down and flavors to incorporate.
Break up the tomatoes and stir to a rustic mix. At this point you can reduce heat to simmer while you prepare your noodles.
Prepare the noodles as directed on the box, about 10 minutes or so boiling.
Drain noodles and toss with the sauce.
Serve with grated Parmesan cheese!
This served up 4 for a quick dinner at my house, plus I had a huge bowl for lunch the next day. Yum!