Of all cultures that have woven food into life, the Italians are among the best.
It should not surprise then when digging into the history of a recipe there are several classics Italian cooks brought into the world marrying food, plot, and need and Pasta Puttanesca is one of them.
Legend has it that prostitutes in Naples would make the light-tomato based sauce with anchovies, capers, and black olives in hopes of enticing sailors returning to shore into their company through the aroma of the simmering sauce. Like all legends, there is great debate as to whether this is actually true but it gives Pasta Puttanesca a unique storyline in the culinary universe, and after all, food being used for less than perfect purposes is as old as the Jacob-Esau drama in Genesis.
The legend’s appeal is based on the larger – universal truth – food attracts.
In the Parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-50) Jesus is at a party, and suddenly into the scene comes a woman of questionable reputation. As she is seemingly looked down upon by the guests, you might ask the question, ‘How did she even get in?’
The answer? I think it’s food. You smell the food down the block, you want to find its source. In a more serious way, maybe she is hungry? Add to that the happenings of a party, and you want to enter to see what is going on.
As for Pasta Puttanesca it is on my list for a future dinner party. The reason being – it is good food – but more importantly the recipe may need a bit of a redemption. The dish began with the Harlots, but it’s also capable of feeding the Saints, and what I love most about the Gospel is how sometimes those are the same people. A person who once was one type of creation is now another is the invitation Jesus offers us all, and of all dinner conversations that one is tops.
In the meantime, I am praying for my future dinner party and the best recipe I have for Pasta Puttanesca is right here.