I take issue with the way many local restaurants prepare pasta puttanesca. More often than not, it’s an insipid dish that is usually served up with far too much in the way of tomatoes and hardly anything in the way of the stuff that gives the dish its characteristic fire and zing.
As the name so blatantly says, the puttanesca is a dish born in the seamier districts of Southern Italy, puttana being the Italian word for “whore.” Like ladies-of-the-night in that particular part of the world, the sauce – il sugo alla puttanesca – is supposed to be just as zesty, spicy, and lusty. It should be richly flavored and robust – not something along the lines of a plain-Jane tomato sauce!
Sbarro, surprisingly enough, actually does this particular dish right. A tart, fragrant sugo is made with tomatoes and white onions. This is given extra power with the heady addition of garlic, anchovies, and plenty of dried red pepper flakes – thus giving it pungency, saltiness, and some welcome heat to round things out. The dish is finished with a generous scattering of both black and green olives, sharp-tasting capers, and a generous handful of chopped parsley. The resulting dish is appealingly robust: tart, spicy, with a fresh flavor coming from the tomatoes and parsley. Molto delizioso!