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ON COOKING: Italian pasta with a risque history

Chef Dez presents a simple yet tasty vegetarian linguine meal
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by Chef Dez/Special to The News

Although my ancestral background is of French and German descent, Italian cuisine is one aspect of the culinary world that I absolutely adore.

The essence of Italian ingredients, such as garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and olives send my taste buds into euphoria time and time again.

The dish, however, need not be complicated to achieve this.

There are many Italian meals that are not only delicious, but also incredibly simple. This recipe is a prime example.

Meat lovers cannot ever imagine that a vegetarian pasta dish could be satisfying enough to fulfill a pasta craving without a meat-sauce present, but this one will have them asking for more.

It has a large enough network of flavours to offer character and complex taste to keep even the most carnivorous eater satisfied… and it couldn’t be simpler.

Linguine Puttanesca (pronounced “ling-gween-ay poo-tan-ness-ka”) is a classic dish from old world Italy with an anecdote of risque origination.

Rumor indicates that Italian “working women” created this dish as a quick meal to prepare between visits with clients.

Whether this tale bares truth or not, the sauce for this pasta dish can be prepared in the same amount of time it takes to boil the water and cook the linguine noodles – making it the perfect solution for busy lives.

Basically, the olive oil is infused with garlic, chilies, and anchovies before the tomatoes and optional wine are added.

Once the tomatoes have cooked down, the capers, olives, and parsley are added at the end of the cooking process. Toss it with the cooked linguine, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Although the name of this dish is derived from the Italian slang word “puttana” for “prostitute,” this is a great pasta dish that I am sure everyone will enjoy.

Discretion however, in relaying the rumored history of this dish to certain family members, would be expected.


Linguine Puttanesca

Makes approximately 4 portions

2 – 3 tbsp olive oil

1 teaspoon dried crushed chilies

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons anchovy paste, or 2 anchovy filets (from a can)

1 – 796ml can of diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup pitted & halved kalamata olives, firmly packed

2 tablespoons capers, drained

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed

300g dry linguine, cooked to your desired doneness

Salt & fresh cracked pepper to season

Add the oil, chilies, garlic and anchovy to a large pan and heat over medium-low heat to infuse the flavours – approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the drained tomatoes and increase the heat to medium-high. Boil until reduced – approximately 4-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat. Toss in the olives, capers, parsley and hot cooked pasta.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at Send questions to or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4


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