Pasta Puttanesca with Paho, Tawilis & Siling Labuyo…

It sounds more than a little weird. But stick with me for a while. Spaghetti Puttanesca was one of the earliest non-Bolognese pasta recipes that I started to order when dining out, thinking it was so much more sophisticated than say, meat sauce. It was only later that I found out that Puttanesca was pretty low brow food as well… :) Many decades later, I read something that suggested that brined paho were a good substitute for olives, and that some folks used them in pasta sauces such as puttanesca. I was sceptical, to say the least, but I figured, don’t knock it till you try it…

For this dish, I substituted sliced paho for olives, spicy tawilis in olive oil for the anchovies and dried siling labuyo for the dried chili flakes. I also threw in some homemade semi-dried tomatoes. In some olive oil saute garlic and onions, then add the tawilis and the siling labuyo and saute for a minute or two. Add in the tomatoes or fresh tomato sauce, the capers, paho, and semi-dried tomatoes. Let this simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is thickened and not watery. Season with salt and pepper and add a little more olive oil if necessary.

Cook some spaghetti or penne (I used whole wheat penne) and add to the sauce and sprinkle with chopped basil and/or Italian parsley. Serve with some grated parmesan cheese.

The resulting pasta was pretty good. The paho didn’t seem totally out of place but I found that the tawilis wasn’t as sharply flavored as the anchovies in the original recipe. It’s nice to know some of these substitutions can work, but I think I prefer the original recipe better… :)

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31 Responses

  1. angelhair pasta is usually the pasta used for puttanesca..since puttanesca literally means
    puta’s hair in sicilian, or at least, that’s what my sicilian friend told me.
    regardless, your pasta still looks delicious.

  2. Hi MM. What is paho? Is it the one that looks like green mangoes in the pic? Can we get brined paho in supermarkets? I’m interested in trying out this substitute ingredient.

  3. kitchen, toscana farms on the silang road to tagaytay… my favorite source of locally grown tomatoes (mostly greenhouse grown though). sally, yes paho are the small mangoes, I have several posts on them in the archives, and my article in this friday features paho…

  4. Looks good Marketman, Pasta puttanesca actually started in the “Red Light” district in Sicily, Italy. I know, I am half Italiano (half Ita or Aeta and Half Ilocano) ha, ha. On a more serious note, Puttanesca is one of my all time favorite pasta dish due to the anchovies.

  5. Gorgeous food styling! As for the paho, maybe it would be a better substitute for the capers rather than the olives?

  6. Paho are usually available during summer. In my hometown it is one of the best appetizer during lunch. patis/bagoong + sliced kamatis + boiled talong + paho + tagalog na sibuyas ,sinaing na isda and lots of rice…

  7. So Footloose, not knowing anything about linguistics, would puttanesca classify as a true or false cognate?

  8. hmm… not quite ready to put paho in my pasta, but i can see how it could taste like olives.

    just thinking out loud….would bagoong balayan be a better substitute for canned anchovies? i think the depth of flavor (“linamnam”, “umami”) are similar. must try that in “caesar”-like dressing later.

  9. ConnieC, that’s a cognate alright. Language learning books alert you to false cognates because they do not mean what you think they mean. For example, an Italian tourist asking for burro in Spain or Latin America is not asking for butter but if he was having breakfast, the waiter who brings him a donkey is being an ass.

    Millet, a full bodied patis would also do the trick. My fall back pasta sauce is chunk tuna drained straight from the tin, olives and capers, patis, good olive oil with everything topped with freshly milled black pepper.

  10. YUM! Brings so much memories, when I read Paho and Tawilis. I’m from Batangas where Tawilis is always available. I used to eat Paho with Bagoog Balayan as snack. I miss it. Haven’t been to the province since my Lolo passed 5 years ago.

    Thanks to your post, I am now craving. I might just visit my relatives in Batangas real soon.

  11. When in the Philippines I use flakes of tuyo in any recipe calling for anchovies. The ones bottled in oil are good for this.

  12. Paho is in season now…been eating it for almost two months now. Last week, at Farmers market, it was selling at P200 a kilo. They sell it also at Mercato and Centris markets.
    Would love to try this pasta while paho is still available.

  13. Ha, ha, ha, sorry MM. I miss silly Lolo but we have a witty Footloose ( I dare not say lola) who has supplanted him.

  14. I once ate something similar to pasta alla puttanesca, not with anchovies, but with bagoong isda (strained to remove fishbones)and it was so good, so I think millet’s suggestion will work.
    tonceq: I’m from Batangas. Pasta with paho, tawilis and bagoong is surely Batangueno pasta! Will try it with some flaked sinaing na tulingan.
    Re puttanesca: I was told by an Italian friend that this is one of the easiest to prepare pasta dishes. Puttana = “easy” woman. Maybe there’s some connection.

  15. Would love to try this! MM, Would green mangoes other than Pajo also work? I’m also curious if, instead of anchovies, a little bagoong would work here. Just because green mangoes and bagoong just seem to go well together. So do tomatoes and bagoong.

  16. what brand of whole wheat penne do you use? I cook with whole wheat spaghetti all the time, no problem. but with whole wheat penne, i can never get the pasta al dente, despite following cooking directions and time, cooking it longer, shorter, etc since I try the pasta every so often. it always ends up too gummy, which i think is due to the fact that the pasta is whole wheat and its relative thickness and size. frustrating :(

  17. Hey, Footloose…..mwahahahahahahaha!

    …we are not tomato sauce people. I make a similar dish to your pasta taught by a dear old Italian lady in the 90’s…has lots of garlic and bread crumbs tossed before serving.

  18. pardon my ignorance… what is paho? is that the young green mango.. just beginning to sprout?

  19. I’m always a fan of simple pastas so it is interesting that you made ‘Tawilis’ instead of Anchovies, it is more Filipino. However, a little cheat to add anchovies would not hurt or maybe fish sauce to imitate the strong fishy tangy taste of anchovies. Still, your pasta looks amazing and mouthwatering!

  20. paula, paho is a specific type of mango, not baby large mangoes… I have several posts on paho in the archives, or you can read my post on Friday on the website. e, I am not home, so I can’t check the box, but I agree that whole wheat pasta sometimes has a tougher consistency.. but I like it because it’s presumably a bit healthier… Pam, paho brined in salty water have a unique taste that is similar to olives. Brined larger mangoes may have odd thick skin that might be tough in a dish like this… joji, yest tuyo would work, it has a sharper, saltier flavor than the tawilis.

  21. Hi MM,

    I have been a lurker of your blog for more than a year now and with all your “organic, fresh-from-the-plant/tree/farm” way of using ingredients, I recently decided to start a small herb garden myself. I just need to ask: In Tagaytay, I saw plant tagged as Sweet Basil and another as Italian Basil. What’s the difference between the two and which is the most commonly used? Thank you. :)

  22. bora, I would have thought sweet basil and Italian basil would be one and the same. The most common types of basil I use are Italian basil, Thai Basil which has smaller more pointed leaves and a more pungent aroma and taste, and red/burgundy/opal basil, whenever I can find it (usually abroad more than local)… Basil does tend to grow well in Manila if you have enough sun and good soil. You may also want to have tanglad or lemongrass in your garden. We have kaffir lime bushes/trees, siling labuyo plants, pandan, galanggal, kalamansi, parsley (hard to keep alive in our garden), oregano, etc. If you want a huge variety of herbs are very reasonable prices, go to the Manila seedling bank and look for the two largest garden stores… they have all kinds of herbs for say PHP30-50 a piece. Good luck.

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