Puttanesca Sauce. The Story. By Chef Lippe
In case you did not know the name commonly given to a prostitute in Italy is “puttana”. Puttanesca sauce makes reference to the oldest craft in the world. Although many different versions exist as to the origin of this sauce and its picturesque name, I am most endeared with the one I am about to tell you.
The tale goes, that in the port of Napoli, like in many ports around the world, there was a section of houses where prostitutes lived, and were port of call and comfort for sailors coming into town. Today the Port of Napoli has been gentrified, and it sports all sorts of high-end businesses and even the Consulate General of the United Kingdom, but in the 16th and 17th centuries, possible time period of the birth of this concoction, it was a pretty rough part of town.
So, it is said, that in addition to the merchant ships coming and going to the coast of Africa, the New World, and the Far East and their mercantile crews of sailors, eager to enjoy a night on the town, the port was shelter for Sardinian and Corsican fishing vessels catching anchovies in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Once docked, and while the vowels of the ships emptied their catch, fishermen would visit the ladies, and pay for their services with anchovies. “Puttanesca” or whore style sauce was the name given to the sauce these women made, at first to feed themselves and the fishermen, and eventually, as the creation gained popularity beyond the port walls, for commercial purposes.
A rather easy sauce to make, albeit full of personality it is today a full-fledged member of the exclusive universe of Italian sauces famous the world over. Olive oil, anchovies, chopped garlic and pepperoncino are tossed in the pan, followed by tomatoes, oregano, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. after the mixture has lost water and is reduced to taste, capers black olives and fresh basil are added until the elements are harmoniously combined.