Since officially moving to London a few days ago, my meals have consisted of a juicy burger topped with Gruyere and a side of chips at Byron, a slightly less juicy burger and a half portion of fish and chips at a local pub, an extra large kebab from a famous kebab place, a vegetarian burger with aubergine, fried goat's cheese and oven roasted tomatoes and chips, and an extremely generous portion of authentic Indian food. And while everything I've been eating has been delicious, there's only so much foreign and fried food I can handle before needing an Italian fix (and an appointment to a cardiologist).
Today my body was desperately craving Italian food - a home-cooked comfort meal that would somehow balance me out again. And what could be more Italian than pasta? Well, maybe a pasta dish that contained a curse word in its name.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Puttana denoting the not-so-nice term for, um, a woman who has sex for money. Supposedly, the dish gets its name from the fact that the owner of a certain brothel in the Spanish Quarter in Napels always served this dish to his guests because it was so easy and fast to prepare. There are other - more funny and absurd - theories as well, however I'd like to keep things PG around here.
But regardless of all the uncertainty concerning the origin of the dish's name, one thing is certain: the dish is delicious and gave me the exact Italian fix I was craving. And really, that's all you need to know.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca
This dish is wonderfully simply to prepare - it's also very cheap (if we overlook the fact that the parmesan cheese I topped it with set
me my brother back £11 - welcome to London!). There's even a chance you've got everything at home already.
I made the sauce without anchovies but you could also add about five of them when you add the garlic to the pan.
5 tablespoons of olive oil
5 ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 red chili (de-seeded if you don't want it too spicy)
2 large handfuls of black olives, de-pitted
1 tablespoon of capers (in salt)
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese (optional)
500g of spaghetti
Wash the tomatoes and carve an X on the top of each. Place them into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from water and set aside so that they cool off a bit before you peel them. In the meantime, finely chop the garlic, chili, olives and capers. Peel and dice the tomatoes.
Fill a large pot with salted water and let it come to a boil while you prepare the sauce. Depending on the cooking time of your pasta, add the pasta to the boiling water so that it is done at the same time your sauce is finished.
Heat olive oil on medium high heat, add garlic and cook for about a minute, then add chili and olives and cook for another two minutes. Add tomatoes and cook on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt if needed. Toss pasta with sauce, garnish with parsley and top with parmesan cheese (optional, but highly recommended!).