Pollo al Forno Con Puttanesca

Baked Chicken with Puttanesca Sauce

Spicy. Salty. Fragrant. Delicious.  Sugo alla Puttanesca is an Italian pasta sauce whose name literally translates to “whore’s sauce”. There are a few theories about the origins of this sauce’s name.  One story claims that 19th century French working girls cooked it between clients, while another claims that judgemental women threw this sauce on prostitutes in the streets while insulting them. All interesting stories, but likely myths. The sauce seems to have actually originated in the kitchen of Sandro Petti, one of the owners of a restaurant and popular night-spot Rancio Fellone in Italy in the 1960s. This story goes that he had nothing but jarred or tinned olives, capers, anchovies and a few tomatoes left in the restaurant’s pantry by the end of the night.  So he threw these together to “make any kind of garbage – facci una puttanata qualsiasi” – for late night customers.  This sauce bcame sugo alla puttanesca and grew in popularity.

Traditionally the sauce includes tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, anchovies (omitted in Napolitan versions as well as my own) and chilli.  The sauce is quickly cooked in a fry pan and takes only anout 5-10 minutes to prepare.  It is usually served over spaghetti as a beautiful vegetarian pasta dish.
I’ve been dreaming, however of using this sauce with a soft and moist baked chicken breast because I thought the flavours would go beautifully. The name of this dish translates to: “Baked Chicken with Puttanesca”. Nom.

Ingredients

  • 1 tub of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 1/2 tbs baby capers, drained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 420 g can of diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (or one diced small red chilli)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 large chicken breasts, halved
  • Pasta of your choice.  I opted for the traditional spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese

Potential Spins

I really wanted to bake chicken in this sauce because I just knew it would make it soft and moist and beautiful, but the more traditional version is much quicker to throw together – just throw it all in a pan and reduce!  You could still include the chicken this way by just browning the chicken in the pan first then adding the remainder of the ingredients.  If you want to be uber traditional, then leave out the chicken and red onion and add anchovies.  The Dragon turned up his snout when I suggested anchovies, so it didn’t happen.  If you want a lower carb option, then leave out the spaghetti, remove the chicken breasts after baking and reduce the sauce a little in a frypan.  You can then serve it with a side of asparagus or broccoli or any other veggies you would like, all topped with that beautiful sauce.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius/392 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place all sauce ingredients into a casserole dish, stir.  Add chicken breasts, cover in sauce.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes.
  4. Cook your pasta in the final 10 minutes in very salty water, drain.
  5. Remove the chicken breasts from the dish and slice them.  Mix the sauce through the spaghetti or serve it on top.  Then top with chicken and parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve!

Our Take Aways

The chicken was just as  moist and beautiful as I had hoped. The flavours of the sauce infused into it as well so it made me very happy.  I think it was just the right amount of chilli as well.  I asked the dragon what he thought and his response was less wordy than mine: “Tasty. Would have again”.
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