This authentic Pasta Puttanesca recipe is so incredibly simple, yet so unbelievably good! Made with just 10 basic ingredients, including spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, anchovies, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and capers, this delicious comforting classic is bursting with bold savory flavors. It’s a quick and easy 30-minute quick dish that the whole family will enjoy!
Invented in Naples in the mid-20th century, pasta puttanesca is a very popular classic Italian pasta dish also known as spaghetti alla puttanesca. Literally translated, it means “spaghetti of the whore.” You can find stories that reference puttanesca as a sauce that “ladies of the evening” would make for their clients because it was quick and easy to prepare.
It’s a simple dish that is really easy to make and highlights its unbelievably good sauce, which features savory bold ingredients like anchovies, kalamata olives, and capers that are simmered together in extra virgin olive oil with some diced tomatoes and garlic. Then the delicious simple sauce is almost always tossed together with perfectly cooked spaghetti. Yet, the sauce is also sometimes featured in other recipes like my Skillet Chicken Puttanesca.
This pasta puttanesca is a very traditional recipe just like you would find in Italy. However, there are other variations. For example, the Neapolitan version doesn’t include anchovies. In other recipes sometimes tuna is used. Overall, the recipe is flexible so if you don’t have black olives on hand you can use green olives. If you don’t like anchovies you can omit them or just use tuna like my Spaccatelle Pasta with Tuna. And this dish is just perfect when served with a Caprese Salad to start!
To start, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Next, add a tablespoon of salt to the water along with the spaghetti and cook the pasta according to the package directions or until it’s al dente, which means still firm to the bite.
Then when the noodles are done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the rest of the pasta using a colander.
While the spaghetti is cooking, you can start the sauce. First, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
Next, add the garlic, anchovies, and chili flakes to the pan and saute everything for a few minutes until the garlic is just starting to brown.
Then add the olives and capers and cook the mixture for another minute.
Now, stir in the chopped tomatoes along with the fresh parsley with a wooden spoon and bring the tomato mixture to a gentle simmer.
Then cover the sauce with a lid and let it simmer on low for 5 minutes.
Once the sauce and pasta are ready, add the cooked noodles to the sauce with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water.
Then toss everything together and cook the spaghetti in the sauce for about 1 minute over medium-low heat. Now, remove the dish from the heat and serve it immediately garnished with some chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired.
Try other authentic Italian pasta recipes:
It’s got a funny name with a story and it’s one of Italy’s favorite pasta recipes. The word puttanesca literally translates to “the ladies of the night pasta” or “in the style of the whore.”
If you aren’t vegan or vegetarian then tuna is a great substitute. But if you are trying to make your puttanesca vegan you can use nori to give it some fish-like flavor. Other options include miso paste and dried mushrooms. The ingredients in pasta puttanesca are very flexible.
Like almost any Italian pasta recipe, pasta puttanesca is best eaten right after it’s made. However, leftovers will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container. You can also freeze the sauce without the noodles for up to 4 months in an airtight container or sealed freezer bag.
Puttanesca has a simple tomato base with lots of bold salty savory flavor from the olives, capers, and anchovies. It’s also a tad bit sweet from the tomatoes.