I am ridiculously gullible. Or let me specify: I am ridiculously gullible if I don’t see any obvious benefit, monetary or other, from whatever lie I’m being told. I don’t see myself losing my savings to a Nigerian prince, for example, nor will I click flashy banners stating that I am, in fact, the one millionth visitor of this website.
Most others, however, stand a good chance.
So imagine the fun some Italian acquaintances of mine had one day, explaining to the gullible northerner where the name puttanesca, as in spaghetti alla puttanesca comes from. I asked them, because it seemed an odd name. The suffix esca means ‘-like’ in Italian, and a puttana is, well… A harlot… A hussy… A woman of loose morals…
Yes, I mean a prostitute.
So here I was, contemplating this name for a moment, wondering where it came from. Slutty spaghetti seemed a rather crude name. I’d never eaten the dish at the time, so I didn’t really know what kind of sauce this sugo alla puttanesca was. But, according to the people I was with, it usually contains garlic, capers, olives and tomato sauce, but really, you could stick in whatever you wanted…
“WHICH IS WHY ITS CALLED PUTTANESCA!” they sqealed, snorting and giggling like a bunch of teenagers. And I just thought they were being really immature about the name itself.
God was I wrong.
They were only laughing because I so readily believed them, and said how interesting that was, wow so interesting, Italian culture, no really, tell me more. It took me longer than I’ll ever admit here to discover that the etymology of the name is unknown, and actually, you can’t stick in what you want at all, it has an actual recipe.
Oh, the embarrassment. But I guess I learned a valuable lesson there. And one day I will get my revenge by making them go out to hunt for haggis when they come visit me in Scotland. Until they catch me one, we’ll have some more slutty spaghetti.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca, for 2:
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small dried chili
- 10 black olives
- 10 green olives (not authentic, but I like them)
- 1 tbsp of capers
- some olive oil
- enough spaghetti or other long pasta
- half a mug of passata di pomodoro, that should be about 100 ml, I think
- some parsley and parmesan to serve
Boil the pasta in water with plenty of salt.
Peel and chop or crush the garlic, chop or crush the dried chili. Fry on medium low heat in some olive oil. Slice all the olives into thin slices. Rinse the capers under cold water, then use a fork to mash them all to pulp. Once the garlic has gone softish, add the capers, along with the sliced up olives. Stir briefly, then add the tomato sauce.
Stir well, drain the pasta, add to the sauce and stir again, making sure that sauce and pasta are all mixed up. Divide between two plates and top with some parsley and a bit of parmesan.