Friday, April 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Penne and Cauliflower alla Puttanesca

This is my kind of pasta dish. Contrary to the Penne Pasta with Multicolored Cauliflower and Gorgonzola recipe I posted a while back, this pasta contains no cream or cheese, and uses whole wheat pasta instead of semolina. About once a year I will make a pasta containing cream and cheese, usually for my husbands satisfaction, otherwise, I prefer tomato or vegetable based sauces and whole wheat pasta.

Alla Puttanesca is one of my favorite tomato based sauces. This sauce is an aromatic, intense mixture of plum tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, kalamata olives, capers, and oregano. Both whole wheat pasta and cauliflower stand up well to this pungent sauce. Anyone reading know the orgins of the name Alla Puttanesca? I will tell you, but please, no one be offended, this is food and cultural history. The word puttanesca derives from the Italian word puttana, which means "whore". It is believed that Italian ladies of the night used this pungent and fragrant sauce to entice customers. Interesting food history isn't it?

Whether you like the meaning or not, this sauce is delicious, and it can be made any time of the year. The original version contains anchovies,but of course, I left this out. You can use any kind of salty black olive, and if you like a little heat, add a pinch of red chili flakes right at the end.

Whole Wheat Pasta and Cauliflower Alla Puttanesca
Serves 4 as an entrée
Autumn, Winter in some areas, Spring

-12 ounces dry whole wheat Penne
-2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
-1 medium carrot, diced small
-2 large shallot lobes, minced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cups small cauliflower florets
-2 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes with juice
-1 cup reserved pasta water
-1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
-1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
-3 tablespoons capers
-Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Set the pasta aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a very large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add in the diced onion and carrot. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and carrot begin to soften around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add in the shallots, garlic, and cauliflower. Sauté until the cauliflower begins to slightly brown and soften, 4-5 minutes more.

Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, the 1 cup of reserved pasta water, and the oregano. Cook at a simmer until the sauce becomes thick, and the cauliflower is tender. Add in the pasta, olives, capers, and season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Heat through and serve hot.

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