A Series of Unfortunate Bites: Puttanesca for the Theatre Troupe

Growing up as a kid, I somehow read a lot of books. I don’t know why, I guess my parents were too cheap to buy video games. It was mostly a combination of Harry Potter, Molly Moon, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Even when I was young, just reading a book from the latter series helped me garner an interest in food, because I was introduced to so many different dishes across the 13 titles. Within Book 1, The Bad Beginning, I noticed two recipes: porridge with raspberries and puttanesca pasta.

The porridge would be an easy recipe to do, because of it’s similarity to rice pudding and my pastry repertoire. But it wouldn’t be an interesting or truly unique-to-the-book sort of recipe. When I first heard about puttanesca, it was from reading the series. Puttanesca is a spicy tomato sauce, scented with olives, capers, and anchovies, and in the movie adaptation of the book, it was served with penne pasta. The Baudelaire orphans had to prepare this dish using the scarce resources available to them for their villainous guardian, Count Olaf, and his sinister theatre troupe.

If you’re too cool to use boxed pasta — trust me, I was in that position before, but then I realized some pasta, like penne, can’t be made fresh — I’ve included directions on how to prepare a fresh pasta alternative in addition to directions on how to cook with the boxed penne.

Puttanesca Pasta; makes enough sauce for 3 servings:
3 cloves of garlic; peeled and minced
4 anchovy filets; minced
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
16 oz. crushed tomatoes
3/4 cups chopped and pitted black olives
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1/4 cup minced basil
1 onion; diced
olive oil
3 handfuls of penne pasta

Line a saucepan with olive oil and put on medium-high heat. Wilt onions and garlic in the pan. Add in the olives, anchovies, capers, and pepper flakes and stir for 1 minute. Add in the tomatoes, and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes of cooking, fold in the basil.


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For the pasta, start by boiling generously salted water. Cook the penne for 8 minutes in the water, and then another 2 minutes in the puttanesca. Serve while warm. Alternatively, if using fresh pasta, you can make a similarly shaped pasta called garganelli by wrapping thinly rolled squares of pasta around a lightly floured chopstick and pressing into the grooves of a fork while rolling to seal the pasta. Cook the fresh pasta in the salted water for 3 minutes, and then another 2 minutes in the sauce.

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