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Feeling lazy? Puttanesca to the rescue

"Puttanesca - Although you will often see its Italian name explained as meaning “whore’s pasta” in English, the general consensus seems to be, however, that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of cans and jars." Nigella Lawson


'Slattern' doesn't just mean lazy and messy though does it? I suspect it is also closely allied to 'prostitute' via 'slut'. But that's English. I'm not sure there is the same connection in Italian and Spaghetti alla puttanesca is an Italian dish after all. In Italy 'puttana' means 'whore'. And the reasoning for this name according to many is that:


"Puttanesca" literally translates to "in the style of prostitutes," supposedly because the pungent aromas of garlic, anchovies, capers, and olives tossed with pasta were how Neapolitan sex workers would lead customers to their doors." J. Kenji López-Alt/Serious Eats


Well prostitutes certainly have a sort of style, but they work hard, which may of course mean that they don't have much time for cooking. And why would they smell of those things anyway? They weren't inviting their customers to eat after all.


However there is also another origin story - a bit like Chicken butter cream when I think about it - when late at night in a restaurant in Ischia:


"a group of hungry customers asked the owner, who didn’t have many ingredients left, to make “una puttanata qualsiasi,” that is, to throw together whatever ingredients he had, to make something simple." Italy Magazine


And although not authoritative, one of Nigella's fans, (Jim Hewitt) in a twitter conversation with her said of his mother:


"On those days when my mum couldn't be bothered to brush her hair and cooked dinner using whatever was in the cupboard she would say: "Hush. I'm slatterning!"


Thus languages evolve and urban myths are born. And I've probably said all this before. Today, however, inspired by a recent post from Ottolenghi in The Guardian which included this gorgeous looking recipe for Salmon puttanesca I thought I would look at other puttanesca type things you could make that didn't involve pasta.


A brief reminder first of what a puttanesca sauce is - tinned tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, garlic, chilli, capers, oregano, olive oil and parsley, Parmesan - all put together within ten minutes whilst your pasta is cooking. So ideal for the lazy without any fresh ingredients. It all comes from tins and jars - except for the herbs, garlic and Parmesan, but the Italians at least would assume that you had these things available all the time.


And when I think about it - and continuing with the link to Chicken butter cream - I sort of did the same thing last night - adapting a sauce to something other than its original purpose. When I made the last - and delicious version of Chicken butter cream I had a substantial amount of sauce left, and so I used that sauce to make a dish of salmon, zucchini and onions - all doused in the sauce and baked in the oven, served with rice of course. Not as delicious as the original chicken but pretty good.


Thus began my search for things puttanesca-esque. Only to find there were hundreds of course. Most of my initial finds were from 'unknown' blogs, so I'll begin with one of those brief profiles of somebody's little corner of the internet. In this case Carole and her dish of Puttanesca(ish) chickpeas.



Her website's name is Carole Food, and she is yet another of those beautiful slim, long-haired young women. The beauty must come at least in part from her Trinidadian mother. Very annoyingly to us who are no longer young, and anyway were never as beautiful, or clever, she is also a high achiever, having gone to London School of Economics where she studied Economics and Philosophy. LSE is up there with Oxford and Cambridge in the English university canon. In spite of this she then trained as a chef and began a career as a recipe developer - she mentioned having "developed baking recipes for Helen Goh" which rather makes you wonder doesn't it? Helen Goh wrote Sweet with Ottolenghi and is a co-author on his upcoming book Comfort. Is this a suggestion that celebrity chefs don't write their own recipes? Anyway she seems to write regular recipes on her website - heaps of them are for beans and other legumes, and there's quite a lot of vegan too. I'm guessing she makes more money from the recipe development than the website - although, of course, I may be wrong. It's certainly not one I have come across before, however.


As I say, the list was long of other things you can do with the puttanesca idea, so let me try and sort them into categories. I should also say, without being specific that some did not strictly keep to that list of ingredients. Since we began with beans - here are a couple more: Silverbeet and chickpea puttanesca from Matt Preston and Broad bean puttanesca from Thomasina Miers



Fish was a top favourite, so Ottolenghi was probably not being that original with his salmon. Others I found were: Fish puttanesca/Liv Kaplan; Barramundi fillets and shito puttanesca/ Coast of Gold; Sardine puttanesca/Jamie Oliver - in keeping with the canned theme - the sardines are also canned and Fish polpette with puttanesca sauce/Trisha Greentree/delicous. in which the sauce is puréed and used as a sort of dip for these crispy fishcakes.



Meat - Puttanesca osso buco/Meat at Billy's; One-pan chicken puttanesca/Nine Kitchen; Chicken puttanesca/Jill Dupleix and Lamb shoulder puttanesca/Matt Preston



Two salads, both from delicious.: Kumato puttanesca salad and Puttanesca potato salad; bread and polenta: Puttanesca grilled cheese with fried capers/Tutto Rosso Tomatoes - possibly the most original of the lot; Roasted puttanesca sauce with polenta - Sylvia Colloca; almost pasta with Baked gnocchi alla puttanesca/Happy Skin Kitchen and actual pasta - orzo, which is a bit like rice from Ottolenghi -Baked orzo puttanesca



Or you could just go traditional and make the original dish of Spaghetti puttanesca on which J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats will give you all the lowdown.


I'm not really sure whether you are really interested in lots of recipes. Like these lazy recipes it's a pretty lazy way of writing I suppose. However, it's interesting to me how many ways, ordinary people who write blogs in far-flung corners of the internet, as well as celebrity chefs can come up with a vast range of optionsfor how you put a particular set of ingredients to work. Which is encouraging because if they can do it, so can you. Yes you can and it is my hope that lists like this will give you ideas. One little idea from one place can be added to another one from somewhere else and before you know it you have created something original. And if it works you should write it down so that you can do it again, because you won't remember it. Trust me. I never do.






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