recipe: pasta puttanesca

Some of you may recall that I have previously shared a few things written by my good friend/coworker, Jim Sollisch. He’s not only a very talented writer, he’s a fabulous chef. Jimmy is another one of those types that can make a fabulous meal out of anything and never follows a recipe. Lucky for me (since I absolutely need a recipe), he started putting his culinary creations to paper. And in true Jimmy form, each recipe is taking on a creative format. Instead of traditional recipes, he’s putting each dish to poetry.

Pasta Puttanesca
1. To make Puttanesca, which means whore’s dinner,
Heat the olive oil and add onions and garlic.
A hundred thousand recipes start this way,
But what’s important right now
Is that this is how Puttanesca starts.
Making Puttanesca isn’t about cooking,
(Any more than making love is about sex).
It’s about making Puttanesca.
Stay focused.

2. Add about 20 capers. And a few bay leaves.
And not the kind that’s been interred in a jar for 20 years
and is now as brittle as a dead butterfly wing.
If that’s all you have, let’s just skip it.
But don’t tell me all you have is dried thyme.
You can’t stop thyme.
Get it fresh. I’d rather you grew it, but let’s not make this too

3. Roughly chop the thyme to release its soul. Toss it in the pan.

4. Now let’s talk about olives.
You’ll need 10 or 12.
Think of them as a harem.
Get little ones. Fat ones. Black ones, Italian, Greek and Spanish ones.
This is not the time to practice monogamy.

5. A Roma tomato that’s ripe should look like a breast.
And not the breast of a young woman.
We’re talking full, pendulous breasts.
The kind that have given life and love.
Get at least a dozen. Skin, chop and seed.
Your hands and fingers are the only tools that really work here.
Be happy about that.
Quarter the tomatoes and add to the pan.

At this point, you have a respectable Puttanesca.
But this is the last dish that should settle for respectability.
So add a little balsamic vinegar to the mix.
Throw in what’s left of last night’s Merlot
or that Chianti you’ve been waiting to re-gift.
Some pink peppercorns would be lovely.
As would a sprig or two of rosemary.
Toss in a roasted red pepper and a few sun-dried tomatoes.
Or get a little crazy with some anchovy paste.

When you eat the Puttanesca, served over al dente pasta,
Think of the whores who, late at night, or early in the morning,
After their work was done, ate their Puttanesca, made from the
Scraps of other dinners, happy to be off work,
happy to be in the presence of God,
Who, for our pleasure, made all the fruit of the earth.


  1. Anonymous
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    I am flush right now. The images of food, love making, debuachery and bare breasts… god, I’m not sure whether to grab my wife or my chef’s knife and saute!

  2. Allison M.
    Posted May 12, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I thought copying a good recipe out of Food and Wine was a nice gesture — he just wrote you a little poem about a recipe!

  3. Life in Recipes
    Posted May 13, 2008 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Wow. I’ll never be able to look at a dish of puttanesca the same way again.