Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gloria's Vegetarian "Puttanesca" Sauce

Penne with vegetarian puttanesca sauce
Whole wheat penne with vegetarian puttanesca sauce
Tangy, pungent, spicy, robust and assertive, puttanesca sauce is not for the timid. This classic Italian tomato sauce for spaghetti and other pasta traditionally features olives & capers, garlic, hot chilies and anchovies -- all of which I love. It should come as no surprise, then, if I tell you that puttanesca is my favorite Italian tomato sauce, followed closely by arrabiata sauce (which shall have to wait for another day).

I recently decided to make puttanesca sauce for the first time, but much to my dismay there was nary an anchovy in my pantry, and I had no desire to go to the grocery store. So I decided to make do without, and thus this vegetarian -- but no less robust and pungent -- version of puttanesca sauce was born.

Although traditional puttanesca sauce does not include mushrooms, I added baby portobellas to my recipe as an alternative to anchovies. Yes, I realize that the flavors are not interchangeable. But the brown mushrooms' meat-like flavor added both body and richness to my vegetarian puttanesca.

A note about olives:  Every puttanesca sauce I've ever eaten at a restaurant had either sliced black olives or pit-in mixed olives. Having neither, but having gourmet pimiento-stuffed olives from the deli counter, I decided to slice those up and use them in my recipe. Feel free to use the type of olives you enjoy, adjusting the amount depending on whether they're sliced or whole.

Farmhouse Olive Collection
Buy Mixed Italian Olives
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 large garlic cloves, minced
8 oz brown or baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp ground savory
1/2 cup red wine
Olives: either 1/2 cup sliced OR 1 cup whole
1 Tbs capers (I use brine-packed nonpareil capers, drained)
1 Tbs chopped sun-dried tomatoes
28 oz can tomatoes*, undrained (fire-roasted tomatoes are great for this)
Handful chopped fresh parsley

*I used whole tomatoes and used the side of my wooden stirring spoon to break up into chunks as the sauce cooked. You can use crushed or diced tomatoes if you prefer.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or medium pot. Add onions and saute until they start to soften, then add garlic and continue to saute until onions are translucent. Stir in the mushrooms and saute until they start to soften. Add the herbs & seasonings, stir, then pour in the wine, stir and cook at a steady simmer. Stir in the olives, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the undrained can of tomatoes, stir, and simmer at least 30 minutes (and ideally longer, cooked at a low simmer) or until sauce has thickened and slightly reduced. Add the parsley after 20 minutes of cooking.

cooking pasta sauce
After adding tomatoes
vegetarian puttanesca sauce recipe
After simmering & reducing
Serve over spaghetti or other pasta, or over cooked spaghetti squash strands. If desired, top with shredded or grated parmigiano cheese or with additional red pepper flakes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings, and you can store leftover sauce in a tightly lidded glass jar -- the flavors will continue to develop and improve overnight.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS: Do you enjoy hot & spicy foods, and are looking for more zesty recipes that feature hot peppers? Then visit our Hot & Spicy Recipes board on Pinterest!

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