Spring Green Puttanesca Sauce and a Few of My Favorite Things

If you are a woman anywhere near my age and I started singing Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . . . chances are good you would pipe in immediately with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens! All together now! Brown paper packages, tied up with striiiiing. These are a few of my favorite thiiiings! OK, I’ll stop. But I know you’re feeling it. Try as I might, I can’t get my kids interested in The Sound of Music. I guess children in lederhosen made out of curtains singing with a nun can’t compete with the likes of Harry Potter and The Black Eyed Peas. 


It’s really too bad, because on Sunday afternoon, I was ready to cut my hair, don my apron, and start spinning and singing in a grassy valley à la Julie Andrews and there was no one around to share it with. For starters, I got a little time with my coffee and the Sunday New York Times which - you guessed it - is one of my favorite things. I saw a recipe by Melissa Clark for a spring puttanesca that sounded mighty delicious, so I made a mental note of the ingredients before heading off to the Kingfield Farmers Market with my brood. Let me just take a moment here for a dreamy sigh, because the opening of farmers market season really does herald the arrival of spring here in the upper midwest. Sigh. As I grabbed my trusty little red basket, I felt myself practically thrumming with anticipation because spring and farmers markets and my red basket just so happen to be a few of my favorite things. 


You do see where this is going, don’t you?


Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels. Doorbells and sleighbells and shnitzel with noodles . . . Sorry. I can’t help it. Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wiiiiings. These are a few of my favorite thiiiiings. Pardon me. Now I’ll really stop. 


Even though it was a rather gray morning, Kingfield was hopping and I was happy to see all my favorite vendors were back again. I made my rounds and picked up eggs and skirt steak from Braucher’s Sunshine Harvest Farm, a blueberry rhubarb (bluebarb) pie from Sun Street Breads, some herb plants from Tiny Planet Produce and a whole lotta leafy love from various other vendors: kale, spinach, baby lettuce, AND swiss chard. I might have gone a little overboard, but haven’t we been waiting all winter for a little chlorophyll? As we were leaving, I remembered the puttanesca recipe and as if by magic, I looked to my left and saw both green garlic and scallions. I snatched them up and we were on our way.


Having never cooked with green garlic before, I was dubious that it would taste much different than a scallion, since they look so similar. As I discovered, it is definitely more pungent and garlicky and was absolutely stunning on top of homemade pizzas with sausage and goat cheese on Monday night. Having added green garlic to my list of favorite things, I was excited to try the spring puttanesca recipe. 


Puttanesca sauce, which translates to “in the style of a whore,” traditionally contains tomatoes, black olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes. I love puttanesca sauce because not only do I love every ingredient (seriously, I am sort of famous for my love of olives), it actually works better with canned tomatoes, making it a good way to make a great plate of pasta in the middle of the winter. I also love the idea of riffing on a traditional dish to fit the season, so when I saw the recipe for a green spring puttanesca, I knew I had to try it. I didn’t get around to making it until Tuesday lunch, which turned out to be fortuitous because my husband was off work, the sun was shining, and we got to eat outside. More faves.


I made the recipe exactly as written and it smelled heavenly. At the last minute, I remembered the beautiful eggs I had bought on Sunday and suddenly an over-easy, olive oil fried egg seemed like the perfect addition. An egg pairs so beautifully with the garlicky bagna cauda pasta I make, that I knew the silky yolk would work similar magic in this spicy, earthy, umami-crazy puttanesca. And it does. The spinach takes the job of the tomatoes in the traditional recipe and becomes a mule for the salty funky caper, olive, anchovy deliciousness. The green garlic and scallions add a sharp fresh kick. The egg, though not necessary, is divine and the soft creaminess slithers around and sets off all the bold flavors. It's been a while since I’ve been so blown away by a new recipe, but when I think about all of my favorite things that came together on my plate, I can’t say I’m surprised. And I can’t get Julie Andrews out of my head. Sing with me! Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes . . . 


Pasta with Green Puttanesca by Melissa Clark for A Good Appetite, NY Times

Kosher salt, to taste

1 pound spaghettini or spaghetti

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

10 anchovy fillets

1/4 cup drained capers

1 cup pitted and sliced green Cerignola or Picholine olives*

10 fat green garlic cloves, peeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick (or use 8 regular garlic cloves)

1/3 cup chopped scallions including greens

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

12 cups baby spinach leaves (11 ounces)

1/2 cup torn basil leaves.

*I used Kalamata olives because that’s what I had in the fridge.

  1.  Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until it is not quite al dente, 5 to 8 minutes. Reserve a cup of cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2.  While the pasta is cooking, warm 1/4 cup of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the anchovies and capers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the capers start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil, olives, garlic, scallions and red pepper flakes; increase heat to high if using green garlic (leave it at medium high for regular garlic) and cook until garlic is golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pasta and toss for 1 minute. Add a splash of pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Toss in the basil leaves.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog