I made Jamie Oliver’s “Working Girl’s Pasta” last night. “Pasta Puttanesca,” as Jamie explains, is Italian for “Whore’s pasta.” Though he’s not really sure why: “Maybe it’s because the dish was cooked very quickly, with no effort involved, or maybe it’s something the local prostitutes used to eat at home – who knows?!.”
Jamie might not know. But I know someone who does.
So I asked Jeeves. And I must admit, I was a bit perplexed by his answer:
You don’t have permission to access /web?q=why+do+they+call+it+whore%27s+pasta%3F&o=0&dm=lang&qsrc=11 on this server”
Apparently this whole “whore’s pasta” matter is such a closely guarded Italian secret, even Jeeves isn’t allowed to talk about it. (Clearly mafia ties.)
Never one to be scared off by the mafia, I dug a little deeper. And found a definition for puttanesca in my trusty new Food Lover’s Companion. (Thanks Melanie!) “The name ‘puttanesca’ is a derivation of ‘puttana,’ which in Italian means ‘whore.’ According to one story, the name purportedly comes from the fact that the intense frangrance of this sauce was like a siren’s call to the men who visited such ‘ladies of pleasure.’
Still seems a bit vague to me. Does that mean the pasta smells like whores? Or that Italian whores smell like pasta? Or maybe that the pasta is some sort of weird aphrodisiac that only works on guys who like Italian whores?
Regardless, I made sure to keep the doors and windows shut just in case. The last thing I need are Italian whore siren calls wafting out of the house towards Canton Square.
I scratched my head and looked back to the cookbook. Maybe the reason for the name is hidden in the recipe itself. Or, more specifically, Jamie’s subtle choice of words.
Upon finishing the sauce, he instructs: “You may need a few more lugs of olive oil and a spoonfull of cooking water to make the sauce nice and loose.”