Sometimes I like an evening to sit around in my underpants eating my favourite things and sipping the kind of wine that Nick can’t drink because he’s never learned to sip and big red wines give him headaches. And he doesn’t like olives or capers and I don’t think he’s ever tasted an anchovy, and the obvious question is “why did you marry him?” but the truth is this whole ’til death thing was kind of revenge for both of us. So sometimes he’s away for the evening and that’s when I make spaghetti alla puttanesca, that delicious brothel favourite that goes tremendously well with a fruity (yet manly) malbec, both of which are infinitely better when consumed on the couch while wearing your favourite underwears and a shirt you don’t mind splattering sauce on, because it’s messy. And that’s sexy. Try to imagine me thinner and dripping with spicy, briny pasta sauce. Instead of bloated and wearing Nick’s elephant-eating-a-guy beige T-shirt. I’ve never been cool. Or alluring.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
(About enough for two. Serve with delicious crusty bread.)
Don’t worry about the measurements for this. You should be impassioned and a little sweaty while you make this. And you should be wearing red lipstick.
- 1/2 lb. spaghetti (note: that’s a 1/2 lb. pre-cooked. I have no idea how much it weighs when it’s cooked.)
- A splash of good olive oil – maybe a tablespoon, maybe two
- 1 tsp. dried red chili flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (don’t get all anal-retentive about the mincing – it doesn’t matter here. Chunks are fine.)
- 10 to 12 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. small to medium-sized capers
- 2 anchovies, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 5 or 6 canned plum tomatoes, diced
- A splash of wine – whatever you’re drinking will probably do; red is better
- A heaping tablespoon or so of chopped fresh parsley
- Grated pecorino cheese to top (if you don’t have it, regular old parmesan will work fine too)
Boil a big enough pot of salted water to cook your pasta. Measure out enough for two servings – 1/2 lb. should do. When it’s boiling, put noodles in pot.
Heat the olive oil in a pan. When it’s hot, toss in your chilies, your garlic, your olives, and your capers.
Let them cook for a minute or so together, then toss in your lemon zest, your tomatoes, and your anchovies. Toss these in the pan together until your pasta is just about al denté, or about six minutes. When it’s just about ready, drain off your pasta and throw it into the pan. Add the wine, and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Give the pasta two to three minutes to finish cooking and absorb all those sumptuous flavours.
Just before you remove it from the heat, throw the parsley in there, toss again. Get a smug, self-satisfied look on your face at how good this smells.
Plate it, on one or two plates, or plate half and put the other half in a container for your lunch tomorrow. I guess you could even divide this in four and serve it as a side dish. But this pasta is kind of a big deal, so I wouldn’t let something stupid like chicken relegate this to the side.
Shave as much cheese as you like onto the top of the pasta, and serve as is, with a side of bread.
I didn’t tell you to add salt or pepper, because the sauce itself is very salty with all the olives, capers, and anchovies, and the chilies add the right amount of heat, but if you’re into salt-licks and you just can’t live without pepper, add either or both in at the end of cooking.
For dessert, I’m considering a modest bowl of strawberries with a dribble of cream and a delicate sprinkling of berry sugar. I don’t know why people worry about dying alone – if you can cook, it hardly matters, because you can continuously delight yourself, and you never have to wear pants and you can drink the whole bottle of wine if you want to. And no one ever gets all disappointed in you for staining their shirt and leaving dishes everywhere and spending ten dollars on a jar of olives that you’ll eat over the course of a single episode of Iron Chef, which some people think is weird and kind of a waste of ten dollars.
I like Nick. I don’t know why he likes me.