I am not a big fan of tomato-based pasta sauces, but there is one — just one– dish that makes me feel like I’ve died and gone to Italian food heaven: Pasta Puttanesca.
Perhaps that’s largely because the tomato flavor in Pasta Puttanesca is not overriding. Instead, it has the olives and the capers and the parsley and the anchovies that give it that complex, rich, deep, amazing flavor… wait, did I just say anchovies? On a VEGAN blog?
Ok, relax, I was just messing with ya. But here’s the truth. Pasta Puttanesca without anchovies is pretty much pasta in just another tomato sauce because let’s face it: the anchovies give the sauce that rich saltiness and that sea-like flavor that defines this dish. Because a big part of cooking vegan is giving up animal foods without giving up any of the flavor, I came up with a perfect solution for the anchovy dilemma that I shared with you when I posted my Vegan Slut’s Spaghetti way back when– a combination of seaweed and tamari. The seaweed adds the ocean-y flavor that’s so integral to Pasta Puttanesca, and the tamari adds that equally important deep, salty richness.
I made this pasta gluten-free and because there are so many new gluten-free eaters, or so it seems, after the dawn of 2014, I want to include some simple instructions helpful for any cook new to gluten-free pasta:
-Gluten-free pasta tends to be — like many gluten-free foods out there — starchy. So try to cook the pasta in lots and lots of water– it wouldn’t hurt to double up on the amount of water you use for your regular pasta. You will see evidence of the starch in the water which will turn milky white after a few minutes of cooking.
-Like with any pasta, salt your pasta cooking water liberally. Remember to stir your gluten-free pasta regularly to separate the strands and don’t overcook it because it will turn into mush — al dente is key here, so test the doneness and texture of your pasta often in the last few minutes of cooking.
-Also, as with any pasta, don’t let it sit around after it’s cooked and before you add it to the sauce– because that’s when the noodles start to stick together, when they have nothing else to do. Remember your sauce can sit around for a while before you add the pasta noodles– you can always reheat it — but not the other way round.
So now that you have the basic primer, here’s the recipe for my gluten-free Pasta Puttanesca, a treat you can cook and enjoy in a hurry on a weeknight or a relaxed weekend when you don’t want to spend half the day cooking. Try feeding this to someone who wouldn’t be seen within 10 feet of a vegan meal and see if they can tell the difference. I betcha they won’t.
- 8 ounces of gluten-free spaghetti. I used DeBole's rice, quinoa and amaranth spaghetti)
- 2 tbsp powdered seaweed (I crumpled up Nori sheets, put them in my spice grinder and gave it a spin. You could try another seaweed.)
- 1 tbsp Tamari
- 1½ cups crushed or diced tomatoes
- 1 cup pitted, oil-cured olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp capers
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and red pepper and toss until the garlic turns lightly golden.
- Add the powdered seaweed and stir for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes, olives, oregano, parsley, and capers. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes release their juices and the juices start to thicken.
- Add the tamari and more salt, if needed. Season with ground black pepper.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat, and turn off the heat. Garnish with more parsley if you like, and serve hot.