Why This Classic Italian Dish Should Be Your New Go-To

Photo: Courtesy of Kitchen Konfidence.
By Brandon Matzek  

Do you know about pasta puttanesca? It's a classic Italian dish where pasta is dressed in a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, and red chile flakes. It's popular because all of the ingredients can be stored in the pantry — and because it's delicious. Just make sure to keep your pantry stocked, and you can come home any night of the week to prepare this easy dinner.

Related: Homemade Tomato Sauce For Any Pasta Dish

Indeed, there are many aspects of the traditional dish that are enticing. And, while it can be enjoyed any time if year, I'll admit there's no coincidence that I’m posting this recipe just days before Valentine’s Day. Brazen, bold, and incredibly aromatic, pasta puttanesca might be considered a libido boost on a plate. Garlic, chile, olive oil, parsley, anchovies, and capers are all considered to be aphrodisiacs. 
Photo: Courtesy of Kitchen Konfidence.
Pasta Puttanesca With Roasted Cauliflower 
Serves 4-6

For The Cauliflower
1 head (2 pounds) cauliflower      
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, skin on      

For The Spaghetti 
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped 
2 tsp anchovy paste 
1/2 tsp dried red chile flakes, plus more to taste
Kosher salt 
3/4 lb spaghetti 
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, tomatoes crushed by hand, juices reserved 
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped 
2 tbsp drained capers 
Freshly chopped parsley, for serving 
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving 
Lemon wedges, for serving       

1. Preheat an oven to 400°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Start the sauce after the water has come to a boil.

2. Quarter and core the cauliflower. Discard the core. Cut cauliflower into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick slices, and place on the prepared baking sheet along with garlic cloves. Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil, 2 pinches of kosher salt, and several turns of black pepper, tossing to combine. Roast until tender and golden in spots (about 20 minutes), flipping the cauliflower after 10 minutes. Season to taste with additional kosher salt. Set aside.

3. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovy paste and red chile flakes, cooking just until the garlic turns fragrant (1 - 2minutes). Stir frequently to break up the anchovy paste and keep the garlic from burning. 

4. Add spaghetti to the pot of boiling water, and cook until al dente (a little chew left to the texture) or according to the instructions on the package. 

5. Add tomatoes (with juices), olives and capers to the large skillet, stirring to combine. Cook for 10 minutes (about the same amount of time needed to cook the spaghetti), stirring occasionally. Season sauce to taste with kosher salt.

6. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water, then drain the spaghetti. 

7. Return the spaghetti to the pot along with the roasted cauliflower, tomato sauce, and a splash of starchy cooking liquid, tossing to combine. Add more starchy water as needed to bind the sauce with the spaghetti. Season to taste with additional kosher salt. Divide spaghetti between 4 dinner plates (or 2 with leftovers), and top with chopped parsley and black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

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