With our final push to the end of the semester and reading period quickly approaching, I figure that we need an easy dish to make for this week. So, let’s head back to the Mediterranean, make everyone’s favorite carb and spice things up a little bit with a sauce inspired by the world’s oldest profession!
Puttanesca (aka “salty pasta”) is a dish literally thrown together with everything but the kitchen sink. The name derives from the workers of the houses of ill fame in Italy, who needed quick, easy-to-make meals while they were in between clients (I’ll let you look up the translation for the root word ‘puttana’ on your own time). However, it just so happened to be delicious as well! Although there are many variations of this dish, there are some traditional rules (but you can always break them). This is how I normally make it, but like I said, these are mostly just suggestions.
The three big ingredients in the sauce (besides pasta, of course) are kalamata olives, capers and canned or jarred artichoke parts. No this isn’t fancy, and really lives up to the ‘salty pasta’ moniker, but salty things are tasty, so just stay with me. Other important ingredients are garlic, white onion and white wine (if you can acquire it), but I’ve also enjoyed this sauce with spinach, mushrooms and chicken.
If you are adding the extra ingredients, Hannaford is selling chicken breasts at $2.99 per pound while Walmart’s selection is $1 cheaper. I personally like cutting my own ingredients, but if you don’t care, both stores are selling pre-chopped baby portabella mushrooms for just under $2. Walmart has the same pricing for spinach while Hannaford, like usual, is a bit more expensive. A bulb of garlic and a single white onion won’t cost over $2 together anywhere you go, and pasta is usually $1.50 per pound. Kalamata olives could run you as high as $5.69 at Hannaford and $4.78 in Walmart for 9.5 oz jars, and artichoke hearts and capers can be purchased for under $3 in both stores. The wine doesn’t have to be fancy, just dry, so the cheapest option is a $2.96 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Walmart.
First, cook your pasta so we don’t have to worry about it later. Then, in a skillet or large pan (I prefer a wok myself) on medium heat, add oil, your diced mushrooms, a quarter or a half of your onion (also diced) and cook until the mushrooms start to take on color and the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and let it cook down so that it’s no longer holding its natural shape.
Now we add the salty delights! Remember, there really isn’t any hard and fast rule about how much of the salty ingredients need to be in the dish, so you do you. However, I usually add the whole can of artichoke hearts with the juice, two handfuls of olives without the juice (that’s too salty!) and a teaspoon of capers. At the same time, add two or three finely diced cloves of garlic and a splash of wine and let your concoction get happy for about five to ten minutes, stirring when you feel like it.
If you are including chicken breasts, either lay them out on an oven pan and put them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or cook them on the stove on medium heat until you reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. After they are cooked, put them to the side and let them rest for about five minutes before dicing and incorporating them into your sauce for about two minutes. Lay the sauce over your pasta and be happy that you made yourself a fairly authentic Mediterranean meal for around $6.95 if you are cooking for two with bigger portions or $4.63 if you are cooking for three with smaller portions.