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Tangy taste put to the test

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PASTA ALLA PUTTANESCA

Ask Graham Blom what he wants to do and he will tell you he wants to work and travel in Italy.

Graham is soon to graduate from the culinary arts program at Red River College, and what an opportunity awaits him!

For one of his exams he decided to follow through on that love for Italian food and make Pasta alla Puttanesca.

The dish doesn't have a very flattering name, as it translates into Whore's Pasta. But what's in a name? This pasta with any other name would still taste as good.

Pasta alla puttanesca is a tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish invented in the mid-20th century. The ingredients are typical of southern Italian cuisine: tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic. Many accounts of its origin are out there, but it seems to have surfaced in 1960 and reportedly made from what was left over at the end of a long night when Chef Petti still had customers to feed. They were reportedly drunk so I'm sure anything would have tasted good. "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi (Make any kind of garbage)."

PASTA ALLA PUTTANESCA

Ingredients

2 cooked chicken breasts

45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (peeled and finely sliced, crushed or grated)

2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) dried chili flakes (or 30 ml pickled red jalapeno chili peppers, drained, sliced and diced)

500 g (1.1 lbs) spaghetti

1 x 400 g (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes

150 g (51/4 oz) pitted black olives (chopped a bit)

30 ml (2 tbsp) small capers (rinsed and drained)

45 ml (3 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley and basil

salt

pepper

METHOD

Put water for pasta on to boil.

Pour the oil into frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat.

Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost "melted," then add the garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.

Add the pasta to the boiling salted water.

To the sauce, add the tomatoes, olives and capers and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce, adding a little reserved pasta water to help combine the sauce.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil and serve with the chicken breast sliced on top.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2013 D16

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