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The classic Neapolitan pasta sauce for Spaghetti alla Puttanesca—pungent with garlic, olives, capers, and anchovies—cooks in the time it takes to boil the noodles. If you're skeptical about the anchovies, remember what Rach says: "If you think you don't like them, chances are you're wrong. Once you melt them, they just taste like natural salt."
- 5 tablespoons EVOO
- 8-10 anchovy filets
- 8-10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian chili paste, or 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes OR 1 chopped fresh chili
- ¼ cup drained capers in brine
- ¾-1 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, chopped
- About ¾ cup red or white vermouth OR white wine or stock
- 3 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, halved OR two-three 15-ounce cans Italian cherry tomatoes
- A handful of basil, torn
- 1 fat handful of flat parsley, chopped
- 1 pound spaghetti or chitarra
- 3 tablespoons EVOO
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons colatura di alici (Italian fish sauce) or 2 anchovy filets
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 2 cups coarsely ground stale bread
Heat a large pot of water for pasta.
Heat a large skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat with EVOO, 5 turns of the pan, add the anchovies and break them up as they heat, mashing and stirring until they melt into the oil completely. Cover the skillet while they are breaking down. Add garlic and red pepper paste or flakes or fresh chili and stir a minute or so, add capers and olives and combine, add vermouth and increase heat to reduce by half another minute, add fresh tomatoes or canned (for canned mash a bit with spoon or paddle) and stir in a few leaves of basil, torn. Cover pan and cook sauce 15-20 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, uncover and reduce to low simmer.
Cook pasta 1 minute less than directions on package in salted water and reserve ¾ cup starchy water, drain.
While pasta and sauce cook, toast breadcrumbs, if using. See below.
Toss pasta with sauce, half of the parsley and the starchy water, top with breadcrumbs (if using) and a bit more torn basil and remaining chopped parsley.
For the breadcrumb topping, heat EVOO and butter over medium heat in a small skillet and add colatura or melt anchovy with the crushed garlic. Add bread and stir to toast to deep golden brown. Pass to top pasta.