Do I like Tarts or Whores?

And here I’m not talking about people but a sauce! La Puttana is, to put it politely, a Lady of the night, or more normally, a prostitute, a Lady of the night, or a Strumpet. Hence the name for a a spicy sauce of Italian origin is Puttanesca sauce.

Normally, this sauce is served with pasta, and in times past I made pasta almost every Sunday! Why on a Sunday? Because I didn’t seem to have time during the week, three kids at home, husband mostly not, a cooking school of sorts to run etc etc. So Sunday was the ideal day.

Back then I had a pasta machine but honestly I don’t think that there was much else around in the pasta making department. I almost had shares in the cookware shop in my local small town of Wavre ( in French speaking Belgium). It really was the only place to buy anything cookware wise, but apart from a pasta machine, not too much else. Consequently, I read somewhere what to do and this was it. Get a pair of car jacks and a broom handle, balance the broom handle between the jacks and hey presto a Pasta drying rack ! Needless to say I hotfooted it to the hardware store and returned home with my goodies.

Since then it is himself who has fallen in love with making pasta. I have to say, rarely so in London, but often when we are in a our mountain home in France. He makes tagliatelle, lasagne sheets and ravioli.

The last lot of ravioli made during Lockdown 1 was ravioli filled with an egg yolk ( Ravioli Bernese) and it was really very good, but I digress. Puttenesca sauce. Delia Smith says that in her house they refer to this sauce as Tarts Spaghetti and so do we. It is a gutsy, strong and fiery sauce and is served usually over spaghetti, but it can be used elsewhere and I did.

I saw a picture of this sauce served with mackerel. Now I love almost all things fishy but Mackerel is not one of them. I use smoked mackerel fillets to make a very acceptable pâté but on their own, I will give them a miss. But himself really like mackerel, in fact declares his love for anything, strong and smelly.

Therefore, as I had some mackerel fillets in the freezer, decided to make the Puttenesca sauce to go with the mackerel. Very easy to make can be served on a bed of rice or orzo.

  • 2+ cloves of garlic chopped
  • Tin of anchovies 50 grams
  • +/-150 grams pitted bald olives
  • 1 red chilli chopped and descended
  • Can of chopped tomatoes ( or fresh if you wish)
  • A good squirt of tomato paste
  • A tablespoon of drained capers
  • A handful of basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Parmesan and fresh basil to garnish.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil, add the garlic, chilli and basil, sauté until the garlic is pale gold, take care not to burn it. Add everything else, except the salt and pepper.

Put on a low heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, by then it will be thick.Taste and adjust seasoning, it might not need any added salt,as the anchovies are salty.

Whilst the sauce is simmering and literally just before it is ready, dip the mackerel fillets in some flour and fry quickly in a small amount of olive oil. Fry for only a couple of minutes on each side. The fillets are thin and do not need a lot of cooking.

I also cheated on this and served them on a bed of Chinese noodles, which are super quick to cook in a microwave.

And serve of course with some gutsy red wine !

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