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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – Italian Pasta

15 mins Cook
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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a conventional Italian pasta from Naples that’s quick to prepare from pantry staples. if you have canned tomatoes, garlic, olives, anchovies and capers for your cupboard, you could knock out this easy but flavourful sauce in a flash. It’s a stellar emergency meal each person ought to understand, with a “saucy” backstory of its very own!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

There are numerous colourful testimonies explaining how this dish got here to be, and the way Puttanesca pasta were given its name. “Puttanesca” kind of interprets to “working women” in Italian (that’s a politically accurate time period I’m the usage of there!) One tale tells how this dish became invented within the brothels of Naples so the smells wafting from the kitchen would entice capacity … errr, clients. some other story claims this pasta changed into a quick and simple dish girls of the Neapolitan night time may want to throw collectively in a hurry in among their busy schedules.

Does this sort of speak on a G-rated meals blog make you blush?
whatever the origins, nowadays this is considered a conventional and staple Italian pasta recipe. It’s finances-friendly, smooth and short to make, but scrumptious sufficient to woo family and buddies (or indeed, “paying customers” …

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – Italian Pasta

Ingredients in Spaghetti alla Puttanesca sauce

Being such simple recipe, this is one of those dishes that truly advantages from higher exceptional ingredients. on this pasta, the one ingredient I find is definitely worth looking for is clean deli-fashion olives in olive oil or brine, in preference to cheaper jarred ones you find on supermarket cabinets.

Oh, additionally, anchovies – the name of the game “why is this simple sauce so excellent?” factor. in case you pass it, the sauce isn’t quite as suitable! but you could depart it out if you wish to make the dish vegetarian / vegan (add a touch more garlic, capers and olives as an alternative).

  • Black olives – Try to use good quality, fresh olives from the deli. These come in either olive oil or brine and will add more flavour into the sauce as it simmers compared to bottled ones that come in sealed jars. Both pitted and unpitted are fine but pitting your own is best.
  • Anchovies – This adds savoury flavour and salt to the sauce without leaving it “fishy-tasting”. In fact, you’d have to have a highly attuned palate to be able to taste it at all. The anchovies are finely chopped and dissolve into the sauce, and any strong fishiness disappears leaving just deliciously deep umami.I prefer to use whole anchovies and finely mince it myself because it has better flavour than using anchovy paste. But paste is a handy alternative – my rule of thumb is 1/4 teaspoon of paste per anchovy (so use 3/4 teaspoon in this recipe).
  • Spaghetti – Traditionally made with spaghetti or vermicelli pasta (ie. the thinner spaghetti), though this recipe works just fine with any long pasta. Or short, for that matter!
  • Tomatoes – Not all canned tomatoes are created equal! Better ones are sweeter and break down better to create a sauce.TIP: If you find your tomatoes are a bit on the sour side, just add a touch of sugar to the sauce. It’s a cheat’s way of taking the sour edge off that is a game changer with for example, Spaghetti Bolognese.
  • Capers – Adds little pops of briny goodness and that unique caper flavour to the sauce. I usually use standard size capers. On occasion, I find they can be giant in size so I’ll reach for the baby capers instead. Both work!
  • Garlic – Because this is Italian food!
  • Chilli flakes (aka red pepper flakes) – A pinch of heat is wonderful in this sauce. It’s not a spicy sauce, here it’s just a background hum of warmth.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – For cooking and finishing.
  • Fresh basil and oregano – These finishing herb touches will really lift the dish and return some freshness to the sauce. But if you don’t have them, it is absolutely still worth making using a pinch of dried oregano. Don’t bother with dried basil, it’s basically flavourless.If you don’t have basil, serve with a sprinkle of parmesan instead. The extra flavour will compensate for absence of fresh herb flavour.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – Italian Pasta

How to make Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Start the sauce first and get it simmering, then cook dinner the pasta. They’ll each finish on the identical time, geared up to toss together!

This recipe serves 2. Use a medium size skillet here instead of a totally large one, else the sauce will dry out too quickly whilst simmering. in case you’re scaling the recipe up but a massive skillet can be vital to toss the pasta in the sauce (or use a pot for the sauce and tossing).

  • Sauté aromatics – start off by sautéing the garlic in olive oil till it starts offevolved to head golden on the edges. Then add the finely chopped anchovies, capers, olives and red pepper flakes and prepare dinner for a in addition 1 minute.
    This sautéing step is prime to the flavour of the sauce. It blooms the flavour of the pink pepper flakes or even more importantly, takes the raw fishy edge off the anchovies whilst inflicting them to interrupt down, equipped to dissolve into the sauce.
  • Add the whole thing else into sauce – add the can of tomatoes, then add water by way of rinsing out the can. In is going salt, pepper and sparkling or dried oregano, then provide it a terrific stir.
  • Simmer 10 minutes – as soon as the sauce involves a simmer, turn the heat manner all the way down to low and allow it simmer lightly, stirring on occasion, for 10 minutes at the same time as the pasta cooks. The tomato will wreck down, the water will prepare dinner out, leaving behind a pleasing, vibrant and thickened sauce.
    If at any level it looks like the sauce is drying out (probable because of heat being too strong or using a skillet that’s too massive), just add a splash of water.
  • Cook dinner pasta – prepare dinner the pasta in salted water. just earlier than draining, scoop out a mugful of pasta cooking water. that is a key, vital step for cooking any pasta (properly and properly!). We upload a dash into the pasta sauce while tossing with the pasta. Starch that’s left in the cooking water facilitates emulsify the fat and water inside the sauce. This has a thickening impact and additionally discourages the sauce from separating. The sauce clings deliciously to the pasta strands in place of leaving a watery pool of bland liquid at the lowest of your pasta bowl.
    You’ll see this step in each pasta recipe on my website. And each household in Italy makes pasta this manner!
  • Combine pasta, sauce and pasta cooking water – After draining the pasta, immediately throw into the sauce in conjunction with approximately 1/four cup of pasta cooking water. I rarely degree, I just eyeball it.
    Toss, toss, toss! With the skillet nevertheless on a low stove, use 2 wood spoons to toss the pasta vigorously for a minute. After 20 or 30 seconds of tossing, you’ll observe that the sauce in the skillet starts clinging to the pasta (way to the pasta cooking water!).
    The pasta is prepared while the sauce is all caught to the pasta rather than sitting inside the skillet.
  • Pasta/sauce receives dry – If at any stage the pasta (or sauce) receives too thick or dries out, in place of being slippery and vibrant, simply add an extra splash of pasta cooking water then toss greater. this may resurrect the pasta and makes it “juicy” once more. this is why we scoop out a massive mugful of pasta cooking water! I try this multiple instances whilst taking pictures and taking pictures movies of pasta because it loses freshness inside minutes and i can’t shoot that rapid!
    Sprinkle with basil and serve immediately!

What to serve with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca – Italian Pasta


Puttanesca is historically not served with the typical bathe of parmesan because it already has lots of salt and savouriness from the flavor-packed ingredients. but I received’t stop you if that’s the way you want to roll.

Having stated that, if I don’t have fresh basil on occasion i exploit parmesan to compensate as a finishing touch (no it’s no longer the identical factor in any respect, but i like to have a garnish).


In my world, Puttanesca is planted firmly within the “emergency pantry food” bucket so you gained’t get a side salad if I make this for you. It’s also technically 95% vegetables besides! but, if you’re after a incredible brief one that’s on-theme, Rocket with Shaved Parmesan suits the bill with an aspect of barbari flat bread (I’m very proud of this recipe, i hope you try it at some point!).

Add Lebanese Rice Pudding for dessert or Nutella Cheesecake with coffee, and abruptly this humble “brief pantry dinner” has converted right into a full blown Italian dinner menu!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca - Italian Pasta

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca - Italian Pasta

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a conventional Italian pasta from Naples that’s quick to prepare from pantry staples. if you have canned tomatoes, garlic, olives, anchovies and capers for your cupboard, you could knock out this easy but flavourful sauce in a flash.
prep time
5 mins
cooking time
15 mins
total time
20 mins



  • 200g / 7oz spaghetti , or other long pasta

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil , plus more for drizzling

  • 2 garlic cloves , finely minced (knife, not garlic press)

  • 3 anchovy fillets , finely minced (Note 1)

  • 1/4 cup pitted black olives , preferably in oil, quartered (Note 2)

  • 1 tbsp capers , drained (Note 3)

  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (red pepper flakes)

  • 400g / 14oz can crushed tomato

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tsp fresh oregano , roughly chopped (sub 1/4 tsp dried)

  • 1/8 tsp kosher / cooking salt (or 2 pinches table salt)

  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp sugar , if needed (depends on tomato quality, Note 4)

  • 2 tbsp fresh basil , roughly chopped (Note 6)


Put together: bring a huge pot of water to the boil, prepared for the pasta. heat serving bowls (I microwave 1 minute).
Prepare dinner garlic: heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium excessive heat. add garlic and prepare dinner for 15 seconds till it begins turning golden.
Cook dinner anchovies: add anchovies, capers, olives and chilli flakes. prepare dinner for 1 minute.
Tomato: add tomato, then add the half of cup of water into the can. Swirl around to rinse then pour into the skillet.
Simmer: add oregano, salt and pepper. Stir, carry to simmer, then turn all the way down to low and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the tomato has broken down and created a sauce. turn off range while equipped if now not timed with cooked pasta.
Cook pasta: meanwhile, add 2 teaspoons salt into the pot of water. Then add pasta and cook dinner per packet guidelines.
Reserve pasta water (observe 5): simply before draining, scoop out a mugful of pasta cooking water and set aside. Then drain pasta in a colander.
Toss pasta: right away add pasta into sauce. add 1/four cup of pasta cooking water reserved from preceding step (be aware five) then use 2 wooden spoons to toss the pasta, nevertheless on a low range, for 1 minute or till the sauce is not in the skillet but as an alternative clinging to the pasta strands (but nonetheless slick and slippery). If the pasta gets too dry, add more pasta cooking water and toss.
Serve: right now switch into warmed bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with basil. Serve at once!


. Anchovies – An essential ingredient in an otherwise simple sauce that adds depth of flavour and salt (but so much more flavour than just plain salt!). Does not make the sauce taste fishy, it dissolves and just adds great savoury flavour. Only people with refined palettes can usually pick that it’s in the sauce! Substitute with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste. 2. Olives – Use good ones in oil, they have better flavour than cheap ones in brine (water, no oil). It’s necessary for this otherwise simple sauce because the flavour from the olives leaches into the sauce. Cutting olives – Many recipes use the olives whole. I can’t figure out why – cutting releases flavour into the sauce which is key! 3. Capers – Normal or baby is fine here. Sometimes the standard capers are unusually large so I opt for baby. 4. Sugar – Better quality tomatoes will be sweeter and smoother. Economical ones can be quite sour, sometimes even with chunks that aren’t even red! Use sugar only if needed, add with the salt (taste tomato, if super sour, use sugar). 5. Pasta cooking water – The starch from cooking the pasta makes the pasta sauce thicken so it clings to every strand of pasta rather than leaving a watery pool of sauce at the bottom of your pasta bowl. Toss well and watch as the sauce magically sticks to the pasta strands! 6. Basil – Lovely fresh finishing touch, but if you don’t have it, just add a sprinkle pf parmesan instead. Obviously a completely different flavour, but brings something else to the dish. Don’t bother with dried basil. 7. Storage – Pasta is always best served immediately! As it sits around, the pasta soaks up the sauce and becomes dry. The sauce can be made ahead a couple of days. Leftovers can be reheated with a sprinkle of water to loosen. 8. Nutrition per serving.
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