by Caroline

Thanksgiving prep is starting early this year as preliminary reports from my brother-in-law indicate that the rental house has an Inadequate Kitchen. So Tony and I have each made one kind of cranberry sauce, my mom’s brown and serve wheat germ rolls are rising, and the wild rice is cooking for the vegetarian entree. Meanwhile, Tony is prepping Wednesday night’s dinner: our standard pre-Thanksgiving dinner, his dad’s pasta puttanesca. While he’s chopping, Eli and I have been enjoying a little tea party of play tea and imaginary puttanesca. Here’s Eli’s recipe:

First you need some olive oil. And then some olives and capers and celery and garlic. Then some more olive oil. Then a little bit of honey. And now some mushed-up bananas!

He started off fine, of course, then took some weird turn into puttanesca smoothie, which doesn’t really sound good to me at all. Here’s how Tony makes it, as his dad made it years ago:

Pasta Puttanesca

This recipe is for a pound of pasta, which would serve 4 adults.  I’ve never actually measured this stuff, it’s all eyeballed, so these quantities are my best guess.

The celery might suprise you. The taste is really quite nice — it’s important to dice it finely so there aren’t big celery “crescents.” But the subtle crunch is really what you’re after.

Note the rather small quantity of tomato sauce. This is decidedly not  a chunky, olive-y marinara sauce. It’s very light on the tomato sauce… the small quantity of tomato sauce and some olive oil makes the sauce just barely fluid and helps it coat the pasta well.

1 lb. pasta (works with either long noodles or shapes, e.g. penne)
40-50 pitted kalamata olives
4 tbsp capers
10 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste)
8 stalks of celery (especially the tender inner stalks)
1 cup tomato sauce
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
grating cheese

Either mince the garlic or slice it really thinly and saute in a frying pan with a generous lug of olive oil. When lightly brown, transfer into a bowl. Use a rubber scraper to get all the flavored oil as well.

Chop the olives coarsely and add to bowl. Rinse the capers in a strainer and then chop just once or twice and add to bowl.

Trim away any of the tough celery stalk bottoms. Cut the celery lengthwise into strips (about 1/8″) and then dice. Add to bowl.

Add tomato sauce to bowl. Add another couple tablespoons of olive oil. This is important to make the sauce nice and thick so it coats the pasta well.

Add as much ground pepper to taste — I’m a pepper freak, so I’d do about 30 grinds for a full pound of pasta.

Mix well and let stand. You can do this as far in advance as you like… the flavors will only improve. I wouldn’t do it more than a day in advance for fear that the celery would go soft. Although if you made this and froze it immediately, I imagine it would be great. I keep meaning to make a giant batch and try that some day.

Cook your pasta. Before draining the pasta, pull out a cup of the pasta water.

Drain the pasta really well. We can add water later, but we want to control the moisture ourselves.

Add the sauce and 1/4 cup of water to the empty pot or a large bowl. Add the drained pasta. Mix well coating all the pasta. Add more water 1/4 cup at a time if needed. The pasta should be nice and moist, but we don’t want a big puddle of liquid at the bottom of the pot.

Serve with lots of nice grated cheese at the table.