Sunday Supper & More

Chicken and penne mixed up in some saucy stories

chicken with puttanesca sauce (Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe)
Start with Chicken with puttanesca sauce
penne puttanesca (Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe)
End with Penne puttanesca
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick
Globe Correspondent / June 9, 2010

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Hot and lively, much like the ladies of easy virtue after whom the dish was named, puttanesca sauce originated in southern Italy. Puttana is the Italian word for prostitute, and there are several tales spun about the dish. Some believe that the intense aromas of garlic, anchovies, and olives lured potential customers, who were served pasta and sauce while waiting for the next available girl. Others say the sauce’s strong flavors are symbolic of the women of the night. Yet another account suggests that state-run brothels in the 1950s were only required to give their employees one day off a week, so they depended on sauces made with shelf stable ingredients.

The original working girls knew a little something about how to use their time. Easy to make in large quantities, puttanesca is a 30-minute sauce. Use it fresh from the pot to top pounded, sauteed chicken breasts. Later in the week, dress penne with puttanesca. Adapt the recipe to your tastes, adding more or less garlic, crushed red pepper, or anchovies.

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a leafy, slightly bitter version of its well-known relative. It is quite popular in Italy and makes a good partner for puttanesca. Blanch it quickly to remove some bitterness and soften the vegetable. Later, saute garlic with the greens to heighten the flavor. Chop any leftover broccoli rabe and stir it into the penne. Spicy puttanesca and bitter rabe is a pairing the saucy women would have liked.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick can be reached at


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