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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca alla Neopolitana
made with Roasted Tomato Sauce
By Charlie Burke

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Authentic pastas are among my favorite meals, as can be seen in the index of
recipes for this column, and this classic spicy modification of marinara has
become an old standby. Reputedly favored in the past by “hostesses” in the
port of Naples because of the ease and rapidity of its preparation, it is now
served throughout central and southern Italy.

Here, the original recipe is modified, using a roasted tomato sauce as the base
rather than canned or fresh tomatoes, and resulting in a richer, more intense
sauce but retaining the integrity of one of the country’s most traditional pastas.

Tomato sauces are said to have originated in the early nineteenth century in
Naples when tomatoes were added to the most essential of pasta sauces, aglio
e olio, which consists of only chopped garlic and olive oil. Even now, in
Naples, sauce alla marinara means a sauce made from just tomatoes, garlic and
olive oil, and marinara, itself, serves as the base for many other sauces

Over the past couple of years I have roasted nearly all my tomato sauces in the
oven, finding that high heat caramelizes some of the tomatoes and evaporates
most liquids, yielding a thick sauce with intense flavor. Initially, I added
carrots, onions and celery to the oil and garlic, but, interestingly, my recipe has
evolved to the same three primary ingredients of marinara because the
sweetness of the onions and carrots diminished the acidity of the tomatoes and
celery seemed unnecessary. We now keep this roasted “marinara” as a staple
in our refrigerator for use in pastas, soups and sauces. Like the quick
Puttanesca, it is easy to make so we do not hesitate to use it in soups, sauces or
braises, where it adds acidity and depth of flavor.

I have found that making this pasta with the roasted sauce raises it a level, but,
if you do not wish to make the roasted sauce ahead for this recipe, use a can of
whole tomatoes, drained of their liquid, and added to the pan at the same time
the roasted sauce is added, and then boil the sauce for approximately fifteen
minutes. Adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste will help approximate
the intensity of the roasted base. We made it this way for years with excellent
results, and this is actually the more authentic preparation.

Roasted tomato sauce:

Four 28-oz. canned whole tomatoes (we use organic Muir Glen) or equivalent
amount of home canned tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt or kosher salt

In a roasting pan, heat the oil, salt and garlic over medium heat until the garlic
just starts to color. Add the tomatoes and liquid, mashing the tomatoes with a
potato masher or spoon to release their juice. Place the pan into a preheated
400 degree oven and cook for 45 – 60 minutes or longer until there is slight
charring of the tomatoes and the juice is thickened. Turn off the oven and leave
the tomatoes in the closed oven for an additional 30 minutes. The sauce should
be thick and chunky.  Taste the sauce, adding more salt, if needed, and stir in
more oil if the flavor seems sharp. Use it immediately or cool, cover and store
the sauce in the refrigerator for up to one week. It also freezes well, so the
recipe can be increased proportionally and the extra frozen.

Four to 6 servings spaghetti puttanesca:

1 pound spaghetti, preferably made from semolina durum flour
3 cups roasted tomato sauce or 1 can best quality canned whole tomatoes,
Sea salt  
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, chopped (1 if using roasted sauce)
1 cup black olives, such as calamata, coarsely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/3 cup capers, drained and rinsed
½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste if using canned tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water (at least 6 quarts) to a boil and add 1/3 cup of kosher
or sea salt.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped
anchovies, garlic, oregano and tomato paste, if using, and sauté until the garlic
is soft and the anchovies have nearly dissolved.

Add the tomato sauce, capers and olives, stirring well. Simmer for 5 minutes if
the roasted sauce was used, 15-20 minutes for canned tomatoes. Taste, adding
salt, pepper or pepper flakes to taste.

Turn the heat to high under the pasta pot and add the spaghetti. Cook the
spaghetti approximately 6 - 8 minutes until al dente (slightly more firm than
desired). Drain the spaghetti, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.

Turn the heat under the sauce to medium-high and add the spaghetti, tossing it
well for 2 -3 minutes to mix with the sauce and finish cooking the pasta. The
sauce should coat the pasta with little remaining in the bottom of the pan. Add
a small amount of pasta water if the sauce seems dry.

Serve the pasta immediately in warmed bowls. In Naples it is usually served
without cheese, but we are less traditional and pass grated Parmigiano-

Give this piquant sauce a try for a change from standard marinara. Don’t be put
off by the anchovies, which dissolve and meld into the sauce with no trace of
fishiness and add saltiness and depth, which work with the olives, capers and
red pepper to create flavor which has made this a favorite for nearly two-
hundred years.

I find the easy roasted sauce adds intensity to the other flavors in the Putanesca
and use it in similar pasta sauces, as well. It is a great ingredient to have on
hand and replaces tomato paste in recipes and livens up sauces and soups, so
give it a try. Bottled in a Mason jar, it would also make a great hostess gift
during the holidays.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at
Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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Photo by Charlie Burke, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca alla Neopolitana made with Roasted Tomato Sauce
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