Pace yourself: Pasta Puttanesca a good pre-marathon meal

Every spring, we look forward cheering on Fargo Marathon runners from the boulevard of my parents' home on Ninth Street South. We usually arrive just before the first runners appear, and from then on we make sure at least one person is on the bou...

Pasta Puttanesca
Pasta Puttanesca is a carb-rich dish that will help runners get to the finish line. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
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Every spring, we look forward cheering on Fargo Marathon runners from the boulevard of my parents' home on Ninth Street South.

We usually arrive just before the first runners appear, and from then on we make sure at least one person is on the boulevard at all times until the very last runner passes.

In past years, the course has placed us somewhere around mile markers 8 (half) and 20 (full), which means that our day began at 7:45 am, and ended sometime around 1:30 pm.

The leaders of the half and full marathons would usually whiz by, still looking impossibly fresh and fast; but, at this late stage in the race, many of the runners were starting to "hit the wall," and our cheers often gave them that extra boost to keep going.

Our neighborhood has developed a reputation for being lively marathon supporters (a 2009 Forum article even described us as "rowdy'), and we take this duty very seriously.


My sister and her family drive up from the Twin Cities to join us, and my father has been known to develop hand blisters from his non-stop cowbell ringing.

This Saturday, the course was altered, and we are now located between mile markers 4 and 5. Our coveted role as marathon cheerleaders will likely be over by 10 a.m., and the majority of runners who pass by will still be somewhat lively and fresh.

We'll continue to give them our very best, down to the final runner, but I have to confess that we're a little blue about wrapping up so early. We almost feel as if we won't be doing our full part for the runners.

With this in mind, we've decided to offer a great recipe to give the runners what they need nutritionally to make it to the finish line.

While not competitive runners ourselves, we do know that loading up on carbohydrates before a big race is critical to sustaining energy throughout the event. Pasta is a great food to help achieve this, and Tony's recipe for Pasta Puttanesca is the perfect dish.

A southern Italian specialty with a colorful background, Puttanesca originated in Naples, Italy. The name is derived from a not-so-nice word in Italian that implies women of, let's say, easy virtue. It's unclear how this came to be, but there are several entertaining theories available on the Internet.

We love this recipe because it's delicious, quick and easy to make, and consists of staples commonly found in an Italian pantry. Best with linguini or spaghetti, Puttanesca has an amazing aroma and depth of flavors which include tomatoes, garlic, kalamata olives, capers and anchovies. For extra protein and flavor, consider adding jumbo shrimp to the mix. Tangy with a little spice, Puttanesca is not a heavy pasta dish, which makes it ideal for this, or any, occasion.

Some people may choose to skip the anchovies, but they are the unsung hero of this dish. And we encourage you to be adventurous. Anchovies are commonly used to build flavor in many foods, even Caesar Salad and Worcestershire sauce.


Fargo Pride will be in full force again this Saturday on South Ninth Street, and we wish all the runners the best of luck.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at . All previous recipes can be found at

Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 4 to 6


1 package linguini, cooked to al dente

¼ cup olive oil


½ small yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

5 anchovy fillets

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup white wine

6 large ripe tomatoes, diced

¼ cup kalamata olives

2 tablespoons capers

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 12 to 18 jumbo shrimp (peeled & de-veined)


Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously (at least one tablespoon). Add pasta and cook according to directions on package. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat with the onion, garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes (add shrimp now if using). Use a spoon or spatula to break the anchovies up into little bits. Cook until onions soften and become translucent, about four to five minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers and simmer over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. During this time, drain the pasta and set aside until sauce is ready. Do not rinse with water.

If the sauce appears dry, add water, starting with a quarter cup. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if desired. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss to coat and cook together for one more minute. Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese.

Tony's Tip

The more you break apart the anchovies during the initial cooking phase, the more they will dissolve into the sauce. Anchovies are salty by nature, so be sure to taste the sauce before adding salt.

Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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