Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Sauce for All Seasons - Yellow Heirloom Tomato Puttanesca Sauce - Weekend Herb Blogging #219

Yellow Puttanesca Sauce

I broke down and bought draperies, real draperies, the kind that sound-, air-, and lightproof the rooms to create a cocoon of silence, suffocation, and darkness. I do not like them; it now feels like we live in an antiseptic hotel, or worse, a funeral parlor. And yet, they are necessary. They are thermal lined for insulation. The Northeast's got a chill on, that despite a few days' worth of traditional January thaw, is back. I like the cold. A lot. But we woke to 12 degrees Fahrenheit the other morning, and the wind careening round the corners of our top-floor flat feels like it's scraping the bricks off the building. This cold has teeth.

What we need here is something we have to wait months for, the polar, if you will, opposite of dead car batteries, black ice, and daggered icicles poised over doorways. What we need is summer, preferably the kind enjoyed in the Italian Mediterranean, where terra cotta walls radiate heat, geraniums radiate red, and fragrant pots of tomato sauce radiate from kitchen windows.

Though terra cotta walls and geraniums, and even a kitchen window, are hard to come by at the moment, fragrant pots of tomato sauce are just about as easy as making cups of hot cocoa from scratch.

The secret lies in flinging open the doors of your cupboards and fridge, and pulling out what happens to be on hand, what Simona of Briciole, mistress of Italian culinary and cultural linguistics, calls "aglio, olio e peperoncino," (garlic, oil, and red chili pepper), which are likely ingredients bound to be available no matter what. To many of us, a similarly simple sauce is more familiarly known as sugo alla puttanesca, named rather disparagingly after prostitutes or something of little value, from the word puttanata. But I beg to differ with the popular urban legend of it. Though this sauce is easy and fast, it can hardly be confused with cheap.

Puttanesca Sauce - My own recipe, based on whatever I had on hand. I did not use anchovies, although they are traditional. (Though I used yellow heirloom tomatoes, any fresh, high-quality variety of tomato is a wonderful thing in such an elegantly minimalist recipe.)


8 large tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
1/4 cup brine-cured black olives, sliced
3 tablespoons capers, drained but not rinsed
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
No additional salt needed, especially if you add anchovies (2 tinned fillets, mashed in a mortar and pestle).


Core tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add tomatoes to water, and reduce temperature to simmer. Watch for tomato skins to split and curl away, about 5 minutes. Remove tomatoes carefully from hot water onto cutting board. Allow to cool slightly, then peel tomatoes using a fork. Discard skins.

In a large saucepan, warm olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown (1 minute). Add tomatoes, crushing them with a potato masher until they are broken down and juicy. Add remaining ingredients and cook on a very low simmer for about 15 minutes. Ladle sauce onto your favorite pasta. Serves 3-4. --

This post and recipe is, appropriately enough, being sent off to Simona of Briciole, hosting Weekend Herb Blogging #219 for Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once, who has assumed the leadership of this long-running event from its creator, Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen.


Been There, Done That~
Pasta with Olives, Parsley and Caper Sauce
Pasta with Smoked Salmon
Kasha Varnishkes with Frizzled Onions

Other People's Eats ~

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca
Cauliflower Puttanesca
Pasta alla Puttanesca


  1. I do not like cold .... being born and lived in tropical region it is just too much to handle and I am talking about Norcal weather! I just cant imagine how will i survive in north east :(

    Such a lovely and easy recipe. I have some colorful heirloom tomatoes may be I will make this over the weekend.

  2. A gorgeous sauce! Very original color-wise.



  3. Inbelievably here in the West we have been cold and snow free for over a month...but there is always room for a taste of summer.

  4. Lovely post, bursting with imagery plus a dish that no doubt is bursting with flavor. Excellent.

  5. Great colour this sauce! And that little black irregular edging around the dish - like froth drying up - I'm trying to guess what it is! Looks v artistic!

  6. One of my favourite pasta dishes. Love the color of your sauce.

  7. I also like to use the potato masher to break down tomatoes. I love the color of the sauce. I must admit I have never used yellow tomatoes to make a sauce and now I want to try. Thank you so much for participating.

  8. I absolutely detest the cold, so I just want to be warm as well!

    This sauce looks absolutely delicious. I love all of the salty ingredients. I could use a spoonful right now!