Pasta

Pasta With Puttanesca Sauce (Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca)

A fantastic Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe using fresh cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and garlic it's packed full of flavour and ready in minutes! insidetherustickitchen.com

You can’t go wrong with a quick, simple and inexpensive weeknight meal and puttanesca sauce makes just that. It’s made with a savoury mix of olives, capers and anchovies then is tossed with spaghetti and sprinkled with fresh parsley. Nothing beats a classic Italian meal ready in minutes!

An overhead shot of a plate of spaghetti with puttanesca sauce and chopped parsley scattered around

Spaghetti with puttanesca sauce has always been a safe go-to recipe for me when I’m short on time, hungry and ain’t got a lot of cash in my pocket. That’s exactly why I love this pasta sauce, all the ingredients are store cupboard ingredients and things I almost always have on hand.

P.S I can’t help but giggle writing this post, scroll down for the story (red face).

So Why Is It Called Puttanesca Sauce?

The word puttana means bitch or whore in Italian (sorry we are still talking about food here, promise!) so literally the name of this pasta, spaghetti alla puttanesca means whore’s spaghetti or spaghetti in the style of the whore.

Ahh ok, so why does this delicious pasta dish have such a strange name?

My favourite story of where the spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe came from is that it was invented in the 1950s by a popular restaurant owner. The restaurant was near to closing with some hungry people still left waiting and not a lot of food left in the kitchen.

The customers were tried and hungry and apparently insisted “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi”  or “make any kind of garbage” so with only some tomatoes, olives and capers Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca was created and stayed on the menu from that day.

I’ve also heard that prostitutes would make it for their hungry customers because it was cheap and easy (bahahahaha) I’m going with the first story ok folks, you can decide for yourself!

How To Make Spaghetti with Puttanesca Sauce

First add anchovies, garlic and a little olive oil to a large pan on a medium heat until the anchovies start to dissolve (photo 1).

Then add the canned peeled plum tomatoes, capers, chili flakes and olives and stir. As the puttanesca sauce is simmering cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions until al dente (no one likes mushy pasta, blaa) (photo 2-3).Step by step photos for making spaghetti with puttanesca sauce

Once the spaghetti is cooked, lift the spaghetti from the water to the sauce with a spaghetti spoon (this helps emulsify the sauce) and toss, stir add some chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

This is one delicious, easy and quick weeknight meal that everyone will enjoy.

Tips and Variations – How To Adapt Puttanesca Sauce

  • Traditionally black olives are used but green would work fine
  • Don’t like anchovies? Trust me you can’t taste them. The anchovies are used as a seasoning hence why I don’t add salt and they aren’t fishy in the slightest. I’d urge you still to use them but if you really can’t stand it you’ll need a good pinch of salt.
  • Use the best quality canned tomatoes possible (I like Cirio). It’s really worth the extra few pennies and makes a huge difference to the end result.
  • You can use fresh cherry tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. I’d use 1lb (450g) cut in half and stew them down with the garlic and anchovies then add the rest of the ingredients. You might need to add a splash of water.
  • I like to keep the garlic whole and then remove it add the end for more subtle garlic flavour. If you want a extra garlic punch, finely chop it or crush it into the sauce.
  • The spice again is a subtle kick (nothing is meant to overpower here) but if you’re looking for something spicier feel free to add more dried or fresh.
  • Try adding tuna, it’s a popular variation and really delicious.

A close up of spaghetti on a plate with puttanesca sauce sitting on a wooden surface

More Simple Pasta Dishes To Try;

True Story

On a girly holiday in Italy with Nathan’s sister we somehow landed ourselves in the position of cooking for two Italian men. Riggght let me explain, at the time she was just getting to know her now boyfriend and we suggested to cook for him and his friend and what did we decide to cook?

Whore’s bloody spaghetti BEFORE we knew the translation. Literally 10 minutes before they arrived we looked up what puttanesca sauce meant and omg it was a mixture of crying with laughter and how embarrassing is this…wait they’ll not notice.

Note to self: Italians know every pasta sauce just by looking at it, no joke!

They looked down at their plates of spaghetti and without even tasting it declared “Ah spaghetti Alla Puttanesca” cue laughter. Well it must have worked because 6 years later they’re still together ha!

If you’ve tried this Spaghetti with Puttanesca Sauce or any other recipe on the blog please let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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5 from 6 votes

Spaghetti Alla Putanesca Recipe

A fantastic Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe using fresh cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and garlic it's packed full of flavour and ready in minutes!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian pasta sauce, puttanesca recipe
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 411kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 13.4 oz (380g) spaghetti
  • 14 oz (400g) canned plum tomatoes , high quality (I like Cirio)
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 1 small handful (1.2 oz/90g) black olives
  • 6 salted anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 2 smal or 1 large garlic clove , peeled and crushed with the back of a knife
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small bunch parsley , chopped

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add one tbsp of olive oil to a large pan with the anchovy fillets and whole garlic clove. Fry for 30-60 seconds until the anchovies start to melt.
  • Add the tomatoes, capers, chilli flakes and olives to the pan and stir together. Add the spaghetti to the pot of water and cook according to packet instructions until al dente (around 8-10 minutes).
  • Stir the tomato mixture occasionally as it starts to thicken ( if the tomatoes reduce too much add a little splash of pasta water and stir. 
  • Once the spaghetti is cooked, lift the spaghetti from the water to the sauce with a spaghetti spoon (this helps emulsify the sauce) and toss, stir add some chopped  parsley. Serve immediately.

Notes

Tips and Variations - How To Adapt Puttanesca Sauce

  • Traditionally black olives are used but green would work fine
  • Don't like anchovies? Trust me you can't taste them. The anchovies are used as a seasoning hence why I don't add salt and they aren't fishy in the slightest. I'd urge you still to use them but if you really can't stand it you'll need a good pinch of salt.
  • Use the best quality canned tomatoes possible (I like Cirio). It's really worth the extra few pennies and makes a huge difference to the end result.
  • You can use fresh cherry tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. I'd use 1lb (450g) cut in half and stew them down with the garlic and anchovies then add the rest of the ingredients. You might need to add a splash of water.
  • I like to keep the garlic whole and then remove it add the end for more subtle garlic flavour. If you want a extra garlic punch, finely chop it or crush it into the sauce.
  • The spice again is a subtle kick (nothing is meant to overpower here) but if you're looking for something spicier feel free to add more dried or fresh.
  • Try adding tuna, it's a popular variation and really delicious.
Nutrition Facts
Spaghetti Alla Putanesca Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 411 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 144mg 6%
Potassium 469mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 75g 25%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 5g
Protein 14g 28%
Vitamin A 18.4%
Vitamin C 16.9%
Calcium 3.9%
Iron 9.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Spaghetti Alla Putanesca Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 411 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 8%
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 144mg 6%
Potassium 469mg 13%
Total Carbohydrates 75g 25%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 5g
Protein 14g 28%
Vitamin A 18.4%
Vitamin C 16.9%
Calcium 3.9%
Iron 9.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Helpful Info For All Recipes 
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan oven
  • Read more about how the nutritional information is calculated here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Nicole
    July 16, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    This is one of my favourite pasta recipes! The anchovies add an umami layer to the flavours -Yummy!

  • Reply
    Sherri
    July 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    OMG! Those olives are calling my name! This dish looks fantastic! And I’m still laughing about the origin of puttanesca! I never knew that so thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelli Kerkman
    July 16, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Perfect for a weeknight – thanks for the recipe, and for the info on the history of the sauce!

  • Reply
    Jemma
    July 16, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Such a classic! It really looks so tempting.

  • Reply
    danielle wolter
    July 16, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I love a good puttanesca sauce. So simple, but so fresh and delicious. Great recipe!

  • Reply
    Nathan
    August 29, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Yum, love a good pasta recipe.

  • Leave a Reply

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