Pasta Puttanesca is a flavor-packed Italian classic that is simple to make in only a few steps with pantry essentials. I love using the best ingredients I can find to make this trusty family favorite.
What is Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca?
Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca is a traditional Italian pasta dish where spaghetti is tossed with Puttanesca sauce - a unique, distinctive sauce made with canned tomatoes, capers, anchovies, and olives. The other ingredients in the sauce can vary but usually include red pepper flakes.
Why is it Called Pasta Puttanesca?
There are a few different theories about the origin of the name 'puttanesca' which is derived from 'puttana', an Italian word for a prostitute. Some say the dish was named because Italian prostitutes found it easy and quick to make between clients (!) Others think the dish was invented when one Italian chef only had a few ingredients to whip up a last-minute sauce and threw together the Puttanesca sauce, which plays on the second meaning of the word puttana as 'garbage'. The name 'puttanesca' could mean a dish made by adding anything lying around. Whatever the origins are, it makes for a fun story to tell when you serve it!
What Wine Goes with Pasta Puttanesca?
For this dish, red wine is a great way to go. Keep the meal wholly Italian with an Italian red that has light berry and red fruit flavors to complement the savory, salty flavors in the sauce.
How Do You Use Anchovy Paste?
Sparingly! Anchovy paste is a trusty way to enhance the flavors of a sauce or dressing, and it will add an extra something special to most savory dishes. Add it to pasta sauces, salad dressings and meat marinades for an extra layer of great flavor. It can be overwhelming if too much is used, so take care not to overdo it.
I personally prefer to use canned anchovies for this recipe.
Easy Pasta Puttanesca
First things first, bring a large pot of water to the boil. While that's simmering, add your prepared yellow onion, capers, black olives, anchovies/sardines, and red pepper flakes to a food processor. Blend the ingredients together until you have a smooth sauce. See photos below.
Next, heat your olive oil in a pan or large skillet over a medium to medium-high heat. Add the blended sauce from the food processor to the pan and cook it for around 8-10 minutes, stirring the sauce regularly.
Once cooked through, add in the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan and incorporate into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and then simmer it while you are waiting for your pasta to cook.
In the large pot, add your pasta to the boiled water and cook until it is al dente. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Toss gently to thoroughly coat the pasta in the sauce.
If you like, stir in some basil leaves. Your Pasta Puttanesca is ready to serve!
If you like this recipe, you'll love these!
- Cherry Tomato & Garlic Confit Tagliatelle
- Aglio e Olio Gnocchi with Pumpkin & Broccoli Rabe
- Spicy Tahini Baked Penne
- Simple Pasta with Pine Nuts, Basil, Tomato, & Arugula
Or peruse all my pasta recipes here!
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Pasta Puttanesca Recipe
- 1 yellow onion peeled and quartered
- 1/4 cup capers drained
- 1/2 cup black or kalamata olives drained
- 6 anchovies rinsed patted dry to remove excess oil
- 1-2 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 1 28- oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb. pasta
- basil to garnish
- Bring a pot of water to boil.
- While you wait, add the yellow onion, capers, olives, anchovies/sardines, and red pepper flakes to a food processor. Process until smooth.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the contents of the food processor and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to boil and simmer until your pasta is cooked.
- Add your pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente. Drain and add to the sauce. Toss to coat.
- Optional: Stir in a handful of basil leaves.
This post was originally published in November of 2017, but was republished with new photos, step by step instructions, nutrition facts, and tips March of 2020.