My palate has been in turmoil these past few weeks. For nearly 6 weeks, winter vanished. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and though it was still chilly outside, the temperatures were a good 10 to 20 degrees above average for this time of year. I started my morning smoothie routine up again and started craving more salads and lighter meals. Then blizzard conditions hit and my appetite was slammed with a need for comfort food. Thank goodness for pasta. This fish-free version of Pasta Puttanesca was exactly what I needed. It packs a load of flavor without the post-meal heavy feeling.
My version isn’t what you would call authentic (hence, the slightly different recipe title). it lacks the salty anchovies (making it suitable for vegans / vegetarians), and I did allow some leeway on the olives you can use (pitted kalamata olives would be best, but when you only have cheap black ones on hand they will just have to do!), but this is still a wonderfully comforting dish that can be dressed up or down, however you like.
Slightly Spicy Pasta Puttanesque-a
This recipe is Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Sugar-Free, Low-Fat, optionally Gluten-Free / Wheat-Free, and optionally Vegan / Vegetarian
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons crushed garlic or 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (no salt added) or 2 lbs of tomatoes, diced
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like)
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper to taste (optional)
- 1 cup olives, quartered (kalamata and/or green would be best)
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup dry white wine (2-Buck Chuck or similar cheap wine will do)
- 8 oz pasta (I used whole wheat penne, but go gluten-free if needed)
- Chopped parsley, optional for garnish
- Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-heat.
- Add the garlic, and saute for just a minute or two.
- Add the tomatoes, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, onion powder, salt, and pepper (if using).
- Bring the sauce to a boil, promptly reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. While that is simmering, you can prepare any other additions (see notes below).
- Your sauce should have thickened a bit, so now you can add the olives, capers, and wine, and allow it to keep warm over low heat while you prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Once the pasta is ready, dish up, and sprinkle each serving with chopped parsley, if using.
Chicken: I thinly sliced (1/4-inch thick) 1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts. I sprinkled them with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper (I skipped the black pepper in the sauce). I then drizzled a little bit of wine over the top and stirred to coat the chicken with the cornstarch mixture. From there, I heated about 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet, and sauteed the chicken until it was cooked through (no pink!) but still tender. I added the chicken to my sauce just before serving.
Vegetarian-Style: In my opinion, this sauce is just begging for cauliflower. Cook 12 ounces of florets in the sauce, or lightly steam them, layer them atop your pasta, and pour the sauce on. I also like the idea of adding artichoke hearts, but haven't ventured it yet.