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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

Puttanesca and The Bad Beginning

Unfortunate Cooking

Come for the delicious recipes. Stay for the terrible story.

Puttanesca and The Bad Beginning

Lynley Jones

Return to A Series of Unfortunate Recipes homepage.

This week we begin at The Bad Beginning with Puttanesca Sauce. If you are not currently toiling in the kitchen of an evil villain, you may enjoy making some yourself.

The Bad Beginning

Obtained by one of my associates from the film archives of the Netflix corporation, this photograph is an accurate portrayal of Count Olaf and his henchpeople at the time of the Baudelaires' stay in that wretched place.

After careful consideration and hours of weeping, I have decided to begin this Series of Unfortunate Recipes at The Bad Beginning.

Not only is there no Sunday brunch in the beginning of this story, there is also no celebration banquet in the end, and there are very few pleasant meals in the middle. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes.

The historical record, as documented by Lemony Snicket, is incomplete with regard to the picnic lunch the Baudelaires may or may not have brought with them on that fateful day at Briny Beach. But Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire were charming and witty, with well-developed palates, a word which here means they enjoyed eating delicious food as much as the next person. So it is likely they may have brought a baguette of good French bread, some Brie cheese to smear onto it, and some fig or other jam to add a touch of sweetness. For Sunny, it is likely that they brought along some apples or carrots for her to bite with her four sharp teeth.

Cold Comfort

Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce , flanked by a hunk of Parmiggiano-Regianno, a pepper grinder and some minced basil. Made according to my research in the Adventure Kitchen.

Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce, flanked by a hunk of Parmiggiano-Regianno, a pepper grinder and some minced basil. Made according to my research in the Adventure Kitchen.

In this very first post, I cannot bear to relate the woeful meal of bland, boiled food the Baudelaires were subjected to during their brief stay at the Poe home. Nor do I have the strength to document the way in which Count Olaf made cold porridge for them to eat on their first morning at his wretched house. You see, the Baudelaires were extremely unlucky, and nearly every one of their meals included badly-prepared food or unpleasant dining companions, or both. 

Puttanesca a la Baudelaire

The evidence is clear that the recipe for Puttanesca sauce the Baudelaires found in Justice Strauss' library called for olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, chopped parsley and tomatoes. (It is also clear, despite suspicious claims to the contrary, that it was delicious.) What is not clear, however, is whether the Baudelaires roasted or sauteed the garlic, and whether or not they made their own pasta using a pasta maker that Violet repaired with her mechanical skills.

An assortment of "interestingly shaped noodles" found in my research at the local Whole Foods Market.

Although the written record is quite specific that the children purchased "interestingly shaped noodles" at a pasta shop, the television documentary portrays them making their own spaghetti. Similarly, the written history indicates the Baudelaires "roasted the garlic" before adding it to the pot, whereas the televised reenactment portrays Violet sauteeing the garlic instead. One can only conclude that the wretched executives of Big TV pressured Snicket to change some key details for the documentary.

This still image was obtained by questionable means from the Netflix corporation. It contains clear evidence of the delicious meal of Pasta Puttanesca prepared by the Baudelaires, as well as the terrible table manners of Count Olaf, seen here preferring roast beef.

My recipe is based on the version faithfully recorded by Snicket in the original history. But I drew the line at peeling the tomatoes and pitting the olives as Klaus does, a phrase which here means that tomatoes are out of season and pitted olives are easy to find at Whole Foods. My recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, but canned whole plum tomatoes, chopped or crushed into pieces by you, would be very nice as well. I also included basil along with the parsley, because it's delicious. And I topped it with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, because it too is delicious.


Puttanesca Sauce

Anchovies, roasted garlic, Kalamata olives, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous handful of parsley and basil flavor this unforgettable, chunky tomato sauce. The results are far from unfortunate. 

You may obtain the first volume in Snicket's written account from the Amazon corporation. Although I'm not sure why you would want to.