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The Puttanesca (prostitute's sauce).. all the secrets and legends puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno

Sirens and Pasta were both born in Naples, best pasta

puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto private kitchen

puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto
puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto

And so was the “Puttanesca”

The story and recipe of the “Spaghetti Puttanesca”

Prostitution has different connotations around the world, but there's only one place where it's inspired a sauce.

That place is Italy and the stuff is puttanesca, which translates roughly to "lady of the night." Some sources call the sauce Roman (The Oxford Companion to Italian Food), but it's more commonly associated with Naples, the country's third-largest city, the birthplace of pizza, and home of sirens so seductive that the only way to resist them is to fill your ears with beeswax and be tied to the mast of a ship. It's made by combining anchovies, capers, olives, and optional ingredients like garlic, red pepper flakes, chile peppers, and tomatoes into a truly tasty sauce.

Studies consider the Puttanesca as a modern recipe but, according to the mythical Ippolito Cavalcanti, legendary chef writer, the recipe was already popular in 1837 when he wrote his food bible “Il cuoco galante” ( the noble chef).

Guess where Cavalcanti was from?

Naples of course, just like me haha

puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto
puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto

I take recipes from Cavalcanti as well as from “La Cucina Italiana” the oldest and more reliable Italian food magazine.

Here is your story:

Puttanesca: odd sauce history

Puttanesca sauce originated in Naples. It is made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, onions, garlic, and herbs, usually oregano and parsley but sometimes also basil. It is an easy sauce, briefly cooked, and is very fragrant and spicy. Puttanesca translates as “in the style of the whore.” The name derives from the Italian word puttana which means whore. Puttana in turn arises from the Latin word putida which means stinking.

Now I’ll bet your wondering how this tasty dish became associated with such sordid content. As is often the case when sifting through culinary history, there are multiple explanations. The first interpretation is that the intense aroma, (harking back to the “stinking” Latin definition), would lure men from the street into the local house of ill repute. Thus, the Napolese harlots were characterized as the sirens of the culinary world.

Three additional accounts all hinge on the fact that Puttanesca sauce is easy and quick to make. The first is that the prostitutes made it for themselves to keep the interruption of their business to a minimum. The second is that they made it for the men awaiting their turn at the brothel. And the final version is that it was a favorite of married women who wished to limit their time in the kitchen so that they may visit their paramour.

To find out how this strangely named dish came to be, we hunted down a pair of Italian historians. They couldn't offer us any spaghetti smoking guns, but below are their educated guesses about its origins, plus a recipe from Thrillist's in-house food-porn star, Perry Santanachote. Next time you have a dinner party, serve your sauce with a story!

When the sauce was invented, prostitution was one of few options , puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto

puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto
puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto

Most Italian sauces date back to the 1700s, but puttanesca is relatively new school according to food historian and Italian cookbook author Francine Segan. She places the creation sometime in the last 60 or 70 years, timed with a particularly turbulent time in Italian history: World War II.

These days young women have plenty of career options, but during wartime in Italy there weren't nearly as many internships available. Women resorted to "working the night shift." Although trading sex stuff for money wasn't considered noble, it wasn't out of the ordinary and actually might have inspired a sense of Italian machismo pride.

“It was just a part of their vernacular, it didn't have as much of a negative connotation. After World War II, you had Sophia Loren movies about it. Italian men were like, 'our gorgeous, terrific women had to resort to prostitution,'” says Segan.

The name isn't because ladies needed to cook something between clients

“I can tell you that there is a lot of disagreement about the origins, and the authorities on Italian food seem to be wary of making a definitive statement about it, which tells me that it's probably impossible to pin down,” says Maryann Tebben, head of the Center for Food Studies at Bard College and author of Sauces: A Global History.

Some corners of the Internet will tell you that puttanesca earned its name because prostitutes could easily cook it up between clients, which sounds wholesome, disgusting, and very bogus. If speed was the goal, a hot sauce probably wasn't the move.

“They would've done other things, like just chopping a tomato and tossing in a handful of olives, capers, and a sprinkle of oregano. You don't even need to cook those tomatoes,” says Segan.

It probably had more to do with the "aroma"

A Spaghettiera is the typical ceramic bowl that is used to serve spaghetti.

usually is large enough for 10 people

Most spaghettiera are produced in Amalfi coast and Sorrento Riviera

“I think the name has more to do with 'aromatics.' There's an ancient Roman history of exploring aromatics. An honest Italian would tell you it's named for those pungent aromas,” says Segan, with several pauses for emphasis and a wink so strong it could be felt via telephone.

Her anecdote doesn't exactly qualify as a definitive background story, but it isn't too far-fetched to say that the powerful mix of anchovies, olives, and capers might have something in common with the scent of a mid-century Italian prostitute.

Despite uncertain origins, it's still damn good on spaghetti

Here the recipe in Italiano :)

  • 500g pomodori da sugo

  • 350g spaghetti

  • 100g olive nere di Gaeta snocciolate

  • 100g acciughe sotto sale

  • 50g capperi sotto sale

  • uno spicchio di aglio

  • un peperoncino rosso

  • concentrato di pomodoro

  • olio extravergine d'oliva

  • sale

Method :

Combine 100 g of oil in an earthenware saucepan with the clove of garlic and the chopped chilli pepper. When the garlic is dark, remove it and add the anchovies, cleaned and desalted, and mash them with a fork. Add the tomatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces, the olives, the capers, desalted, and 2 teaspoons of tomato paste. Mix well, add salt and let the sauce cook for 10'; in the end it will have to be quite dark; some also add parsley. Meanwhile, boil the spaghetti in salted water, drain them al dente and dress them with the sauce. Step 4 Just the right thing for this tasty first course is a glass of white Ischia, which has a delicate aroma and a dry flavour.

Another story of origin:

Originally, it was called ‘alla marinara’; the claim is it was invented in the 1950s in a famous Ischia restaurant one late night when a group of hungry customers asked the owner, who didn’t have many ingredients left, to make “una puttanata qualsiasi,” that is, to throw together whatever ingredients he had, to make something simple. The owner only had some tomatoes, olives and capers, the base for the sauce, and that’s how he came up with the puttanesca sauce. Some indeed say the modern name of this preparation refers to pasta ‘prepared as it comes’, that is, easy to cook, without frills or complicated preparation.


puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto
puttanesca recipe, pasta, ermanno lelli, segreto

  • Spaghetti — I prefer to use GRAGNANO. However, you can use any spaghetti. I recommend going with long pasta such as linguine, fettuccine, or bucatini, but it will still be tasty if you have short-cut pasta in your kitchen.

  • Extra virgin olive oil — Use the best available option to you.

  • Garlic — it is the star ingredient! Spare no expense - it is necessary for infusing the spaghetti with a rich, nutty flavor.

  • Red pepper flakes — while the classic recipe called for pepperoncino flakes, red pepper flakes work well as a substitute. This ingredient is optional; so, if you are not a fan of spicy food, you may omit it.

  • Parsley — any fresh or dried herbs can be used in this recipe; however, I love using fresh parsley.

  • Salt and black pepper — to taste


Ermanno’s Secret recipe

Add some shredded high-quality canned tuna at the end and mix energetically

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©2020 by Ermanno Lelli, F&B Consulting

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