Community recipe for Britta: pasta puttanesca
Possibly this season’s best Community episode was the first part of the pillow fight two-parter: Digital Exploration of Interior Design. With layered jokes, meta-humor, and multiple story lines, it has everything you want from a great Community episode. It also features one of the season’s best lines: “Great whoresmanship, Britta.”
With that in mind, here’s a dish invented for prostitutes.
The story goes that prostitutes would go to the back door of a restaurant to order dinner and one night the chef made this dish, as it is easy, quick, and totally delicious. Since then, it has become a classic. The capers and olives provide a rich saltiness to the dish which pairs perfectly with the tomato base and soaks beautifully into freshly-cooked pasta. I’m omitting the anchovies, which are a traditional part of the dish. Feel free to add them if you like. Just take a few pieces of canned anchovy, cut them into very small pieces, and add them to the oil just before the olives and capers. Without the little fishies, it remains punchy and delicious, as well as vegetarian.
Cooked pasta (long noodles like spaghetti or linguine work the best)
Prepared tomato sauce
Capers, rough chopped
Kalamata Olives, pitted and rough chopped
Onion or shallot, diced fine (about 1-2 tablespoons per portion)
Garlic, minced (about ½ clove per portion, not more)
Chili flakes (optional)
1 – While your pasta is cooking, heat a pan over medium heat and add about half a tablespoon of olive oil per portion. Sautee the onion until it starts to go transparent, add the garlic, and cook another couple of minutes. Do not brown.
2 – Add the capers and olives to the pan. I’d go with no more than ¼ cup total per portion, about twice as much olives as capers. It depends on your preference, how salty you want it, how much you like capers and olives. If you want it spicy, add the chili flakes now as well (about ¼ teaspoon per portion, depending on how spicy you want it). Cook for about three minutes to evaporate some of the water and to infuse the oil with all that salty goodness.
3 – Now add some tomato sauce. Start with roughly ½ cup per portion. Mix it up with the other ingredients and add the pasta. Cook for about two or three minutes, until the pasta has begun to absorb the sauce. It should be nicely dressed with the sauce, but not swimming in it. Don’t be afraid to adjust at this point. Add more tomato sauce if you feel it necessary. You might also season it at this point, but be careful with the salt. When it is done, I like to finish it with a small amount of olive oil just before going to the plate, giving the dish a very light oily sheen. Garnish with basil and parmesan, then enjoy. (If you want to keep the dish vegan, leave out the parmesan)