Patatas puttanesca: a series of fortunate events

‘Puttanesca.’ It’s an Italian sauce for pasta. All we need to do is sauté olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, chopped parsley, and tomatoes together in a pot, and prepare spaghetti to go with it.”

Klaus Baudelaire

When my children were younger we read Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, relishing every page, enthralled by the Baudelaire orphans and their deliciously dreadful uncle, Count Olaf. The making of pasta puttanesca for a dinner party for their uncle and his friends (rather than the roast beef he had requested), and the ensuing explosive scene was a highlight, especially their father’s dramatic rendition of the hysterical Olaf – “Roast beef!! I ordered roast beef!!”

This recipe is a riff on the traditional pasta puttanesca, using new potatoes and sun dried tomatoes, rather than fresh. It is packed with chilli and salty capers, parsley and olives – not for the faint hearted! It came about because I found organic sun-dried tomatoes at my local fruit shop, and although a somewhat dated ingredient, they are so rich and full of flavour when truly dried in the sun and not treated with any preservatives that I had to revive them in this recipe.

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Serves 4 – 6

1 kg small new potatoes
6 – 8 sun dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
1 long fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
6 – 8 kalamata olives, sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 C. Place the potatoes in a shallow oven tray. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 20- 30 minutes until cooked through. It depends a little on the size of your potatoes how long this will take. They need to be soft when skewered with a sharp knife, but not crispy on the outside as a normal roasted potato would be. Slice the tomatoes into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Just cover with boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes to soften. While the potatoes are cooking heat the remaining oil in a frying pan that is large enough to hold the potatoes. Toss in the capers and cook for a minute. Add the chilli, chilli flakes olives and parsley and cook for another minute. Lower the heat and add the tomatoes and their soaking liquid. Cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Check the seasoning and adjust with more salt and pepper if needed and then set aside. When the potatoes are done add them to the pan and toss them carefully so they are covered with the tomato mixture. Serve hot or warm. Great as part of a tapas selection, or served for dinner with grilled beef and a crisp salad. Pass more dried chilli flakes for those who like extra heat.