I spoke of umami recently (regarding the preserved beancurd in the pork belly dish), the mouth feel that some describe as the fifth taste. One group of chemicals which gives loads of umami are glutamates, with MSG (monosodium glutamate - the flavour enhancer) being the most known - and most hated. Contrary to popualr belief MSG is perfectly natural stuff, created by fermentation, even if it is created in factories. Glutamates of other forms occur in loads of ingredients though and inclusion of them when cooking can create some really tasty dishes. Which isn't really surprising with things known as a flavour enhancers.
Some food stuffs with high amounts of naturally occuring glutamates in are parmesan cheese, anchovies and tomatoes so pasta alla puttanesca, which contains all three plus a couple of salty ingredients, is full of flavour.
I don't speak Italian but I do know that puttanesca are ladies of the night so this dish roughly translates to whore's pasta. Not the most endearing name but it is a really endearing dish. Salty from the anchovies, olives and capers, tart from the tomatoes, hot from chili but freshened by the parsley - add all the flavour enhancement and it is pretty moreish stuff. I read earlier today that the first mention of the recipe in Italy wasn't until 1960 but in that short time it has become as classic.
Pasta Alla Puttanesca, for 2 people
200gr dried linguini or spaghetti
1 tin of anchovies, chopped and oil reserved
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of chili flakes
1 can plum tomatoes, drained (juice reserved) and diced
3 TB capers, rinsed
15 - 20 black olives, pitted and halved
12.5gr flatleaf parsley, stalks removed and roughly chopped
Fresh parmesan to serve
Put the pasta on to boil according to packet instructions, mine needed 11 minutes. This is basically how long the sauce takes so if your pasta needs a lot less you may want to get the sauce going first.
Straight away heat the oil from the anchovies in a frying pan over a medium and add the garlic, anchovies and chili flakes. Cook for 3 minutes mashing the anchovies with a spoon.
Add the tomatoes and their juice, the olives and the capers and bring to the boil, turning the heat down to a low boil to reduce. Cook until the pasta is done, turn it off if it is getting too reduced.
Drain the pasta and then add it to the sauce along with nearly all the the parsley. Stir till well combined then split between two places, topping with the remaining parsley and as much parmesan as you want.