Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is a romantic sounding dish, but yet when translated from Italian into English it means - harlot's pasta - perhaps compromising its enchanting image but certainly not compromising on taste.

Invented by an Italian restaurant owner in the mid-20th century,  he created a dish for a group of late night diners using only the few ingredients he had left in his kitchen.  Its popularity led to it becoming a regular feature on his menu and he called it Spaghetti alla Puttanesca.  Named as such, making reference to the inadequate ingredients he'd used for the dish (in his eyes), twisting the words puttanta the Italian noun for 'worthless' and puttana  meaning 'harlot' - the dish was a favourite amongst the restaurant's patrons and was soon glorified en masse.

Beyond Italy, its popularity has spread worldwide and has been featured by many celebrity chefs in cookbooks and TV shows alike.  It's a dish that is easy to make and yet provides a variation to good old pasta with a basic tomato sauce.

Bearing this in mind, when I was approached by Central England Co-operative to contribute to their 'Easy Eating' campaign, this dish instantly sprang to mind.  The 'Easy Eating' campaign promotes non-complicated meals and recipes using ingredients from  Co-operative stores that are easy to make whether you are looking for a post-work supper or a weekend lunch.

My version omits anchovies (used in many versions) thus making it vegetarian and is a nod to many of the Neapolitan forms in existence.  The saltiness synonymous with the recipe is retained by the use of additional olives.  Its format as a pasta bake makes it easier to serve as a table dish in its baking tray - ideal for families or for an informal lunch with friends.  Equally, by making extra portions (multiplying the ingredient quantities as appropriate), it is great to heat up the next day for a quick lunch or to have as an instant meal after work when the last thing you want to do is cook from scratch after a long day!

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients purchased from The Co-operative

250g Penne Pasta
400g Tin of The Co-operative Chopped Tomatoes with Garlic & Oregano in Tomato Sauce
330g Jar of The Co-operative Green Olives Stuffed with Sun Dried Tomatoes (Truly Irresistible range)
275g The Co-operative Closed Cup Mushrooms (Button mushroom size if possible)
50g Peppadrew Piquante Peppers (from a jar)
2 Cloves of Garlic (chopped/sliced)
200g The Co-operative Mild Cheddar Grated Cheese
Chilli Flakes (Optional)
Oil for frying
Serve with:  Fresh Parsley and a The Co-operative Garlic Bread baguette


*  Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (or equivalent).
*  Cook pasta as per packet instructions in salted water.
*  Place the olives (without the oil from the jar) into a food processor and blitz until you have a paste.  Set aside.
*  In a saucepan, fry the garlic and mushrooms in oil (keep them whole if possible, but slice if too big).
*  Add the chilli flakes if using.
*  Add the olive paste, Piquante Peppers and the chopped tomatoes.  Mix well and heat gently.

Tomato/Olive Sauce Cooking Through

*  When ready, drain the pasta and add to the tomato/olive/pepper sauce and mix well.
*  Transfer to an ovenproof dish and cover with grated cheese.

Pasta  Bake Alla Puttanesca - From the Oven

*  If serving with garlic bread, place the baguette in the oven as per packet instructions.
*  Place the pasta bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has melted.
*  Serve the pasta bake alla puttanesca with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Pasta Bake Alla Puttanesca served with Garlic Bread

Disclosure:  I was re-imbursed by Central England Co-operative to cover my expenses to create the meal.  This post was written honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review of the products purchased.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 


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