Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pasta Puttanesca

There aren’t many foods that I dislike but I recently discovered one: capers. The little buds are painstakingly harvested by hand so they seemed like something really special and delicious. I made some spaghetti puttanesca as my first caper dish and surprisingly, I couldn’t stand the taste of them. I can’t explain why I don’t like them, they just taste very alien to me. So if you’re like me and don’t like capers (but I may be alone in this), you can easily omit them from the recipe. But don't let me put you off capers, since many if not most people love them. One day I will give capers another chance, perhaps it's an acquired taste.

Puttanesca is a simple and very flavorful dish with plenty of healthy ingredients so it’s perfect for this month’s "Heart of the Matter" theme, pasta. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, and other compounds that help prevent cancer and heart disease. Studies have shown that the volatile oils in parsley inhibit tumor growth in animals and also neutralize harmful carcinogens. Olives are also a good source of monosaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E. There is no meat, cream, butter, or cheese in this dish. Another way to make pasta even healthier is to sneak in some whole wheat pasta (Ronzoni is the best brand). I can get away with about 1 part whole wheat to 3 parts regular pasta before Steven notices a difference but I'm slowly trying to add more and more.

Spaghetti Puttanesca
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or substitute cayenne but use less (1/8 to 1/4 tsp)
2 tsp minced anchovies, about 4 – 5 fillets (or you can press the fillets through a garlic press)
1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained and reserve 1/4 C of the juice
1 Tbsp capers or more to taste, rinsed
1/4 C Kalamata olives, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp minced parsley
8 oz. pasta of your choice

Start by boiling water for the pasta. Start cooking the sauce when you add the pasta and salt to the boiling water.

Mix the minced garlic with a scant tablespoon of water. Add the garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes to olive oil in a skillet and heat the mixture over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and slightly blond but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the drained tomatoes and simmer until it slightly thickens, about 8 minutes.

Drain the pasta when cooked.

Stir the olives, capers, and parsley into the sauce and toss with the pasta. If the mixture looks too dry, add in some of the reserved tomato juice. This dish is already salty enough from the olives and anchovies. Parmesan is not used to garnish this pasta.

Serves 2

Be sure to check the round up later this month at Ilva’s blog Lucullian Delights for more heart healthy pasta dishes.
Previous Heart of the Matter rounds for other great recipes.

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