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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pasta Puttanesca: It Sounds Better in Italian

You're going to hate me, foodies, but I left behind the chocolate mousse.

It was all such a rush, what with having to catch the very first plane out of Paris on a Monday morning and not really wanting to go at all. I left the apartment at 5 A.M., fitted out with hundreds of little things to make Moscow more fun that wouldn't fit into the suitcase (a snappy set of oven mitts, a long cotton apron, sheets and towels, cookbooks, tea from Mariage Fr?res tea rooms, fresh lemon grass and a year's supply of moisturizer), trailing clothes I was trying to put on as I went down the stairs.

I just didn't think to grab the picnic basket out of the fridge.

I only remembered when I was in the plane and the purser was screeching safety instructions into the speaker system conveniently located just above my head.

That's what is so fun about flying in Europe: you get to hear all those messages in at least three different languages. Was it the early hour, or were all the accents so chewy because the purser really was from Friesland with Icelandic and Scottish extraction?

Whatever the nationality, I swear this was what I heard:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now approaching Moscow Share-a-Hell- Metyevo Airport. Please distinguish your minarettes, fasten your fuzzy felt and place your meat in an uptight position."

Well, it wasn't the meat I was worrying about. That was traveling frozen in the big suitcase next to the fresh tofu. No. The problem was the large platter of cheese -- 11 goat cheeses, plus two little Munsters and an unpasteurized milk Camembert that were ripening very, very quickly in a box in the overhead locker.

I may have forgotten the mousse, but the cheese box was too hard to miss. My neighbors were starting to think so too. A pernicious odor was pervading the cabin that could not be easily explained away.

Now I know there is a plethora of good cheese around Moscow at the moment. But I can't disappoint my Paris Fromager. Every three months he eagerly awaits the swooping visit: carefully selecting the cheese so that they will ripen neither too early nor too late. Packing them into a box, sealing it with thousands of pieces of paper and string. Removing hundreds of francs from my wallet, and sending me happily on my way back home.

I have a weakness for his goat's cheese and unpasteurized Camembert (and his son, but that's another story).

But I also have a weakness for fresh pasta -- which I also left behind. It may be silly, but it is always true that you think something tastes better when you know who made it. I ate fresh pasta twice this past week: once at a very good restaurant called Marco Polo at 8 rue de Cond? in the sixth (fabulous pesto, made even more fabulous by the convivial atmosphere, the free glass of Kir, and the lack of zeros on the bill), and once as prepared by my friend Julien. A whiz at pasta, now that he has the machine.

It is such a cheering sight to see long strands of fettucini drying on a clothesline in the kitchen when you come in after a hard day's slog around the boutiques. And it is even more cheering knowing you are going to get to eat the whole lot.

I didn't manage to stay around to watch him make it. But whenever there was the option to taste, I was in there with my sleeves rolled up to the elbows.

This pasta dish is poetic in Italian: Pasta Puttanesca. In English less so. It's, ahem, Prostitute's Pasta. A creation from Naples, perhaps as a restorative after, an energy dish before, or as I like to think, a better alternative. If you love capers and anchovies, this easy light dish is a winner. It is best served with spaghetti. The ingredients for this dish will easily serve six to eight people. Make sure when you are buying anchovies you choose ones that are stored in oil, they taste better.

Pasta Puttanesca

1/2 cup good virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 small dried chili, crushed

1 (800 gram) tin tomatoes, without juice (reserve it for something else)

3/4 cup juicy black olives (available at Sadko)

1/4 cup drained capers, rinsed to remove the salt

6 anchovy filets, drained

1/4 cup parsley

1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano


Fresh black pepper

Extra parsley for garnish

Boil the water for the pasta, adding a little salt and a heaped tablespoon of olive oil just as it comes to the boil so the spaghetti wont stick. Add spaghetti, stir well, bring back to the boil and cook according to the instructions on the box, but not until it goes mushy. Al dente pasta is best -- it means you can actually get a bit of bite out of the cooked pasta, and not have it be soft and slimy. Practice and you will be amazed at how much better it tastes. If it cooks before the rest of the dish, drain and set aside, but keep warm.

In a heavy-based saucepan, warm the olive oil, add the garlic and cook gently for about five minutes until it is just turning brown. Stir in the chili, then add the tomatoes (well chopped), olives and capers. Don't break up the capers by overstirring, but cook carefully for 10 minutes.

While they are cooking, finely slice the anchovies and add. Stir in the parsley and oregano, taste, and if you really think it needs it, season with salt. Remember, however, that anchovies are spectacularly salty.

In a very large bowl add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss very thoroughly so both are well combined and serve hot with parsley as a garnish.