Puttanesca Sauce with Fresh Farmers’ Market Finds


With fall in full swing, we’re seeing the end of tomato season. Tomatoes come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors — and it is this versatility that makes it one of chef Lia Hillman’s feature ingredients in her vegetarian Spaghetti Puttanesca, where anchovies are optional!

As part of the Cooking Series at SF Cooking School, chef and librarian Lia showed students from the SF State Guardian Scholars Program how to prepare a delicious, healthy and easy pasta meal for two, using fresh ingredients found at any local farmers’ market.



The star the day’s lesson were dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes from Two Dog Farm in Santa Cruz County. The students got busy as they cored tomatoes, pitted olives and sliced garlic. Chef Lia encouraged the group to make the dish their own: Use whole olives and keep it chunky or sliced, same goes garlic, minced or thinly sliced. “It’s you on a plate,” said Chef Lia.
Once the students had their mise en place — which Chef Lia explained meant “to set in place” and having all ingredients prepped and ready to go — the students paired up and started cooking! From pan to plate, it took less than 10 minutes for the hungry new chefs to tuck into forkfuls of spaghetti, served with Puttanesca sauce made from scratch and topped with freshly-grated Parmiagiano Reggiano cheese.


The students also enjoyed a side dish of broccoli with lemon and olive oil; and curiously-shaped Moon Drop grapes, goat cheese and bread for dessert — all from the local farmers’ market.

Chef Lia is also program manager of Biblio Bistro, a food education program at the San Francisco Public Library. Check out the library’s calendar for latest events and classes. She also leads live cooking demonstrations at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market at Civic Center every 3rd Wednesday of the month, weather permitting.


Serves 2



1⁄2 cup Virgin olive oil

2 ounces anchovy fillets, minced (optional)

6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly or minced

2 pounds organic tomatoes, chopped

2 1⁄2 ounces of capers, drained

1⁄2 cup pitted olives

Sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste



Heat the olive oil to hot, but not smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until it starts to turn a golden color. If you are using anchovies, add them now and sauté, stirring, for one minute. Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes on high heat stirring. Add the capers and olives, salt and pepper. Stir, and continue cooking on medium high heat, so that the juice from the tomatoes thickens into a sauce. The tomatoes will retain some of their shape as they cook and this gives texture to the sauce. Stir to prevent the tomatoes from scorching. When the tomatoes have reached sauce consistency, it is ready. This sauce is typically served on pasta. If you allow it to reduce until it is thickened, it is delicious on croutons.

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