When I first arrived in Nacogdoches a few years back, I burst into tears.
I contend it was the confluence of a sleepless night, a 9-hour drive through a torrential downpour, and the growing anxiety of starting a new life in a small Texas town that reduced me to a pathetic puddle. Or maybe it was the U-haul that wouldn't make it up the steep, curved driveway. Or hauling furniture up three flights of stairs to our temporary apartment. Or the 100 degree humidity and 100+ temperature. There's more, but I'll stop there.
Kevin blames it all on low blood sugar. Oh Kevin.
In retrospect, Kevin was ( a teeny tiny bit) correct. The thought of another fast food meal was unbearable, so I made one of my favorite pastas--puttanesca--made with the few utensils and pans I had shoved in the back seat of my car for the very purpose of supper in our new place.
And (points to my husband), after a hearty bowlful, my blood sugar and temperament stabilized. (I should add that we happened to have a lovely supermarket adjacent to our complex; I spent about an hour pushing a shopping cart through the air-conditioned aisles for a handful of items. I think this contributed to my renewed spirit). Nacogdoches was looking up.
I have so many good things about this classic dish, it's hard to begin. But these days, the virtues of fast and simple assembly + ready from the pantry + vibrant, restaurant quality flavor = everything I want for dinner, most any night. And the fact that it's healthy, too (thanks to a reduction in the olive oil--two tablespoons is plenty--and whole grain pasta) is the icing on the cake (or, more aptly, the Parm on the pasta).
I seem to be on something of a "food in times of crisis" theme; perhaps I should dub this "Pasta for the Pouty" because the piquant flavors and whole grain pasta have indeed rescued me from many grouchy bouts (Kevin is not crazy about olives, but he's willing to put up with them here for the effect the dish has on my disposition). Try it. I think you'll agree.
Whole Grain Spaghetti Puttanesca
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 28.2-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 pound whole grain spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, anchovies, capers, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add sauce and parsley. Toss over low heat until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with cheese. Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition per Serving (1/4 of pasta):Calories 256; Fat 3.9g (poly 0.5g, mono 1.2g, sat 1.5g); Protein 10g; Fiber 3.9g; Cholesterol 5mg; Carbohydrate 39.2g.
Vegetarian Option: Leave out the anchovies and proceed as directed.
Nutrition Notes: Whole grains are so good for overall health--and the options for sneaking them into your diet are getting broader by day. Whole grain pastas are a perfect example. The manufacturers have really worked on the flavor and texture, so much so that many are even tastier than regular pasta.
If you want more good news on the benefits of whole grains, check out the Whole Grains Council website. They have some winning suggestions for incorporating more whole grains into your diet. And in case you didn't know, September is Whole Grains month--still a few days to get in your grains before October 1!