Recipe and Photos By Brandon Matzek
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a simple yet robust pasta dish perfect for a date night in or an at-home Valentine’s table for two. Made mostly with pantry ingredients, its sauce is infused with flavors of garlic, red chile, olives, capers and anchovies. Parsley and lemon juice add fresh contrast; roasted cauliflower lends seasonal substance.
Brazen, bold and wonderfully aromatic, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a libido boost in pasta form, as garlic, chile, olive oil, parsley, anchovies and capers are considered to be aphrodisiacs (not to mention that “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca” loosely translates to “slut’s spaghetti”).
Try not to shy away from the anchovies here. They are added at the beginning of the sauce, and their flavor melts into the background. The fishiness dissipates, leaving behind a wonderful note of salty umami.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca with Roasted Cauliflower
For the cauliflower:
1 head (2 lbs.) cauliflower
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, skin on
For the spaghetti:
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. dried red chile flakes, plus more to taste
3/4 lbs. spaghetti
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, tomatoes crushed by hand, juices reserved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
2 tbsp. drained capers
Freshly chopped parsley, for serving
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat an oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Start the sauce below after the water has come to a boil.
Season and Roast.
Quarter and core the cauliflower. Discard the core. Cut cauliflower into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices, and place on the prepared baking sheet along with garlic cloves. Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil, 2 pinches of kosher salt and several turns of black pepper, tossing to combine. Roast until tender and golden in spots (about 20 minutes), flipping the cauliflower after 10 minutes. Season to taste with additional kosher salt. Set aside.
Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovy paste and red chile flakes, cooking just until the garlic turns fragrant (1 - 2 minutes). Stir frequently to break up the anchovy paste and keep the garlic from burning. Add spaghetti to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente (a little chew/firmness left to the texture) or according to the instructions on the package. Add tomatoes (with juices), olives and capers to the large skillet, stirring to combine. Cook for 10 minutes (about the same amount of time needed to cook the spaghetti), stirring occasionally. Season sauce to taste with kosher salt.
Drain and serve.
Reserve 1/2-cup of the starching pasta cooking water, then drain the spaghetti. Return the spaghetti to the pot along with the roasted cauliflower and tomato sauce, and a splash of starchy cooking liquid, tossing to combine. Add more starchy water as needed to bind the sauce with the spaghetti. Divide spaghetti between 4 dinner plates (or 2 with leftovers), and top with chopped parsley and black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
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