Olives and tomatoes are a perfect pairing. Add capers and anchovies and you have a classic Italian sauce that began with the most humble beginnings. If you haven’t heard the story, it originated in Naples and got it’s name from the “ladies of the night” or whore, called puttana in Italian. Though there are many versions of how this sauce came to be, the one I heard was that at one point the puttanas where not allowed to shop with respectable ladies so they had to wait until the end of the day (which makes sense since I suspect that this is when they awakened) and all that was left to flavor their sauce was olives, capers and anchovies…so this is what they used. The result was a quick and intensely flavorful sauce that seemed to perfectly match their personality and lifestyle. This sauce works wonderfully with tuna because it is so quick and flavorful, so the tuna, which should be cooked medium-rare, will not get overcooked even if it’s prepared in the same pan with the sauce. This dish can be served alone, with risotto, or with pasta.
Makes 4 servings
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or just enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
Red pepper flakes to taste
2 pounds fresh tuna (yellowfin is best), rubbed with course salt and pepper)
1/2 medium clove garlic, minced
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup light chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, sliced (for garnish)
Put the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds, until the oil is hot but not smoking. Sea the tuna in the hot oil for about 2 minutes per side. (If you prefer your tuna rare, remove it from the pan at this point.)
Sauté the garlic and anchovy for a few moments, until the garlic begins to turn golden brown, then add the tomatoes and cook for about another minute or until the tomato begins to soften. Add the wine, cook briefly, then add the olives, capers and broth and cook for another minute, or until the sauce begins to boil. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper lightly if needed, keeping in mind that the capers, olives and anchovies are all salty.
To serve, plate the tuna, on a warm serving platter or on individual plates. Add the sauce on the side, garnish with the basil, and serve immediately.