We know that puttanesca means, in Italian, “as done by whores”. What we don’t know is how that steamy title came about. Flimsy legend has it as anywhere between something the red-light ladies could knock up between knock ups, to the flavours suggested by the base: coarse, aggressive, fiery, flavours and colourful results bring to mind the career and environment of the ladies of the night.
Whatever version you prefer, or any other version, this dish should be on every menu whenever a hearty, full-flavoured, wonderfully textured meal, put together with the minimum of fuss, is required. Unlike that other famous Italian pasta dish, with pesto, the ingredients are (or should be) in every cupboard; with the proviso that in the height of summer we’d be using ripe, red Roma tomatoes, rather than red passata from the bottle, preferably preserved by you from the summer, or summers, just past.
My preference for any bottled passata—whether it’s your own or from the fields around Shepparton, or southern Italy—is to reduce it to at least half its volume before adding the final touches.
The only other consideration is to include anchovies or not. I’ve noticed some crazy suggestions that a puttanesca can still be a puttanesca without anchovies. Not in my house it can’t. For those edgy about the strong flavour of anchovies, get over it: cooked through the passata from the beginning, the anchovies drift into the sauce, providing a middle palate to the tomato base that rivals the best middle flavours of the finest wine.
You can cook down the passata any way you like: pot on the stove, microwave, or in the Thermomix bowl: all are efficient, but the microwave is the one that needs the least attention, and the minimum of washing up.