When named after a lady of the night, there's sure to be some saucy tales lurking about. It's for this reason that the origins of puttanesca* are steeped in folklore— though in all likelihood the dish got its start under less...unsavory circumstances.
First served up in mid-twentieth century Southern Italy—possibly around the Amalfi Coast—the name puttanesca is more likely a nod to its simple ingredients, being composed of locally common items like tomatoes, anchovies, olives, garlic, and capers.
The whole thing is a quick and easy affair, taking only about fifteen minutes from start to finish. The strong brininess of olives, capers, and anchovies make sure there's no lack of flavor, resulting in a pleasing salty character that stands up to the bright and acidic tomatoes without overwhelming their sweetness. Be forwarned: a little bit of this sauce goes a long way on a giant plate of pasta.
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About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.