Pasta alla Puttanesca

putanescaI am a 12 year old boy at heart. And apparently so are my friends. Since we had the day off yesterday, a bunch of people came by to spend the day cooking, drinking, laughing and watching some pretty bad movies on Netflix. I decided to make  Pasta alla Puttanesca which translates loosely to “Pasta in the style of the Whore” in Italian. Since we are all sooooo mature, we spent hours asking each other if anyone wants more “little whore pasta.” Of course the more wine we opened the funnier it got.  I recommend making this dish for all of your immature friends.

There are a bunch of stories about how this pasta sauce got its name, but the one I see most often claims that, in between customers, Italian ladies of the night would throw this sauce together for a meal because it was so quick.  So if I suggest that you make this for a weeknight dinner, thats my way of tell you that this is a super quick and easy sauce…not calling you a woman of loose morals.

There are only a few ingredients in this sauce so I suggest using the best version of each that you can find — especially the tomatoes and the olives. At the same time, if you’re missing anything other than those two you’ll still get a pretty great sauce.  As always, with pasta, I strongly encourage you not to spoon the sauce on top, but to throw the pasta, slightly undercooked, into the sauce and stir it around in the pan.

Puttanesca is a salty, briny, tangy sauce. If you love olives and capers then this is for you.  Finally, other than the anchovies, this dish is essentially vegetarian but I still find it satisfying and hearty. However, if you want to have some protein on your plate you can add some shrimp or italian sausage to this. If you have some very good quality canned tuna (think specialty store) its also a great addition to this dish. I know it sounds weird but it just works.

Pasta alla Puttanesca
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • ½ pound pasta ( I use fusilli)
  • 1½ cup crushed tomatoes or any simple tomato sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets (the ones packed in oil)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons kalamata olives, roughly chopped and pits removed
  • ¼ cup of white wine
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, chopped (fresh if you can find it)
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (optional)
  • parsley to garnish
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  1. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Remove from heat and drain 1 minute before instructions tell you to. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the anchovies and garlic in a generous pour of olive oil for 3-5 minutes until the anchovies start to fall apart and the garlic begins to get soft. Stir constantly so that you don't burn the garlic.
  3. Add the capers, olives, sun dried tomatoes and white wine and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook for 3 more minutes. Add pepper to taste. If at this point the sauce is too acidic for you, you can add a teaspoon of brown sugar.
  5. Turn the heat to low and add the pasta to the pan with the sauce. Stir to coat and add a bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary.
  6. Serve garnished with parsley.
For this dish you want to get anchovies packed in oil. They're the ones you'll find in the grocery store near the canned tuna and sardines.


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