Pasta Puttanesca (and The Protein and Dairy Debate)

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When people ask me what my favorite food is, I typically say “anything with seafood.” It can be French, Italian, Vietnamese, Peruvian, or virtually any other cuisine that serves seafood. Provided the food is cooked properly, it’s rare I come across fish of any kind I don’t love. What’s my second favorite seafood you might ask? Cheese 

I personally don’t mind when fish and cheese are combined. I view it as a marriage of two of my favorite foods. However, I know some Italian traditionalists may view it as a huge faux pas.

The Kitchn has a page on the great fish and cheese debate, and while it in no way resolves the issue, it does shed some light as to why it may be in place. In summary, some may argue cheese overpowers the delicate flavor of fish, great cheese making regions tend to be landlocked and traditionally don’t have as much access to fish, and historically, and it was forbidden in some religions to have protein and dairy.

When I initially found a recipe for Pasta Puttanesca (hardly a fish dish, but it does have anchovy in it), I read through comments and noticed people said any cheese garnish was a no-no. So would a purist shun the addition of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top? Maybe. Probably. But I thought it was a delicious finishing touch, although perhaps garnish at your own risk.  

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Pasta Puttanesca

Adapted from The NY Times

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 6 or more anchovy fillets
  • 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh Italian Parsley, optional
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, optional

Bring pot of water to boil and salt it.

Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil with garlic and anchovies in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden and anchovies have somewhat disintegrated into oil.

Drain tomatoes and crush with fork or hands (feel free to reserve the drained tomato juice for a Bloody Mary). Add to skillet, with some salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes saucy, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and red pepper flakes, and continue to simmer.

Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente. Drain quickly and toss with sauce and remaining tablespoon of oil. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, garnish with herbs and Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired, and serve.

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One response to “Pasta Puttanesca (and The Protein and Dairy Debate)”

  1. Liz says :

    You know what if you’re not cooking for “Masterchef” or any such thing, then why worry? I always give first priority to my tastebuds. If they like it, they’ll have it. Have a wonderful day.

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