I had lunch last week with a fellow cooking blogger (and YouTuber) Charlie DeSando. (Blog here, and YouTube here). During our conversation the topic of anchovies came up—he is pro and I am con, in case that is not clear. Of course, he’s Italian so his stance, while repugnant, is forgivable. But later, when I talked enthusiastically about my love of pasta alla Norma, he reminded me that it contains anchovies as does puttanesca another of my loves so I can’t be all that anti-anchovy. Whatever.
So last night seemed like the right time to make it, puttanesca, I mean. I had all the ingredients even though I’m not exactly sure what a puttanesca recipe might be. I could have asked the google but I know I can wing it. Besides, everyone has their own idea of how it should be made just like recipes for chili and stew, but with puttanesca olives, garlic, onions, hot peppers, capers and anchovies are probably in the mix.
What isn’t in the mix, I’m pretty sure, is Boursin cheese which for no particular reason I dumped into the sauce. What the hell, I had some left over, seemed like it would work. And what unquestionably is not a part of the recipe is cooking the pasta in the sauce. I’m pretty sure doing this might get me kneecapped in some circles. What can I say? I’m lazy. Clean up is easier and cooking the pasta in the sauce gives it a creamier texture and the Boursin gave it a creamier taste. I topped it with Monterey Jack cheese, obviously another violation of some code or regalomento that may well get me barred from entering Italy. And while it wasn’t as pretty as it might have been, and there may be dire consequences, it was absolutely and totally delicious.
And in another quirky twist of something or other, the New York Times Spelling Bee pangram that day was anchovy.
Pasta, carbs, sometime you just gotta give in. This time pasta puttanesca or something like it. It’s so easy to do and so freaking delicious. But the Calabrese peppers…Jesus H Krispy Kritters, they are hot.
I ate it but it was like a blow torch in my mouth. I had to have ice cream afterwards, just to, you know, cool everything off.
We signed up to take a cooking class in Lucca, Italy. I was a little skeptical because I thought there wouldn’t be much to learn about cooking in a general class filled with a bunch of goof-ball tourists who would soon be telling people about their cooking class in Italy in a tooth sucking way (including me) but I thought it would be fun for a day. And lunch was included, so yeah, I’m good.
It was held in a restaurant just outside of Lucca. There were 15 of us, mostly from the US but there was a couple from Israel, and a couple, one Filipino and the other Swedish, who were taking their two daughters on a 5 month tour of the world (I recall with great fondness the world tour my parents took me on when I was 12). There were also 2 annoying doctors who felt the need to inform all of us of that fact before the class began. One of them, an anesthesiologist, immediately cut 2 of her fingers with the extra sharp knife they let her use. The other (unclear of her specialty, though the 2 had gone to medical school together) was unable to figure out how to use the pasta machine despite the fact that the 2 pre-teenaged girls did not seem to have any problems with the equipment.
Our participation was somewhat limited. Basically we were allowed to chop and dice ingredients while an assistant wandered around barking “Non” at us periodically. The chef then made twenty some different sauces. And when he had finished those, he started on 4 different pasta doughs. When he opened the jar of squid ink to make the black pasta dough I was more than a little concerned because the smell of the gelatinous squid ink was overwhelming, and the fact that it was going to be used to make salmon filled ravioli made me queezy. We got to roll out the various doughs to make ravioli and linguini, those of us who could figure out the machinery, anyway. The black pasta dough itself did not smell like anything I’d normally consider eating, and once it was filled with the salmon and was sitting waiting to be boiled up I kept my distance from it as I might from a possibly-rabid dog in a corner of the room.
The chef, a borsht belt comedian type, in fact made some interesting sauces that I’d never experienced. A raw tomato and fresh mozzarella sauce processed in a blender with hot peppers, a luscious savory lemon cream, and a puttanesca that was right straight out of this world. I made the ham and mushroom sauce. Actually “made” might be too strong a word, “stirred” would be more accurate description of my collaboration but the sauce was really good.
When it came time to eat lunch the puttanesca did not make it to the table. Somehow it got transported into the kitchen and I imagine that the diners that evening ate the pasta and sauce I paid 85 euros to make. Chef’s got a good scam going on.
Against my better judgment I ate the squid ink pasta. It wasn’t half bad but I’d rather have had him abscond with that than the puttanesca.