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Pasta Puttanesca

This pasta is a great dish when you don't know what to make for dinner, you don't have anything defrosted and you want something that can be made from ingredients right out of your pantry. Well, I can make it on any given day with what I have in my pantry, which always contains canned tomatoes, capers, anchovies and olives - and your pantry should always have these items, too. They add great flavor to many dishes.  And don't be afraid of the anchovies - remember my post about using anchovies - they just add a depth of flavor to the dish that you will not get without them.

If you're wondering what the name "puttanesca" means, we'll get that right out of the way. It means whore. There. This is "pasta, whore style". How this dish got this name is unknown - there are many stories about that. Mostly having to do with prostitutes in Naples. But no matter. It's quick, easy, salty and spicy and we love it.

The proper pasta to use in this dish is spaghetti, but of course you can use whatever you want. I want to take this opportunity to talk about how to cook pasta properly. Many people do not know what a proper "al dente" texture for pasta is. If you have been to Italy, you know how the Italians cook their pasta. If you have not, I want to show you what that texture is. So the next time you are making spaghetti, I want you to buy Barilla brand thin spaghetti. Bring the water to a boil and add the spaghetti. When the water returns to the boil, time the spaghetti to cook for exactly three and a half minutes. That's it. I don't care what the box says - I think they write those instructions for the American market. Toss the spaghetti thoroughly with your sauce. The spaghetti continues to cook for a little bit after you take it out of the pot - something people do not take into consideration. Now you have perfectly cooked al dente pasta. This will probably be a new taste for you, since even good Italian restaurants in this country can't seem to cook pasta properly.


Pasta Puttanesca 


for printer friendly recipe, click here


  •  2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large pinches of red hot chili pepper (or to your taste)
  • 6-8 anchovies
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • about 3 cups of whole peeled canned tomatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons olives, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons capers, rinsed (packed in salt, not vinegar!)
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti


Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.

In a skillet over medium heat, add garlic, chili pepper and anchovies to the olive oil. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies melt and dissolve. Do not burn garlic. Add the tomatoes with their juices and break up the tomatoes with a spoon (I use my hands and squish them!). Let this cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes at just a simmer. Add the olives and capers. Turn off the heat under the sauce.

If you are using Barilla thin spaghetti, take the spaghetti out with tongs (don't drain) after boiling for exactly three and a half minutes and put the spaghetti right into the skillet. Toss well with the sauce. Add a little pasta water if sauce is too thick. Serve immediately.


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Reader Comments (12)

Goodness, this looks so good! It's cold, raw & dismally rainy here.. this is a perfect dish to warm the soul!

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterYankeeSoaper

I was thinking about making this for dinner tonight and I was going to wing it but now I don't have too!! Thanks, it sounds delicious!

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTartelette

At first glance, I just wanted to grab a bowl and dig in! There's nothing like quick,easy,salty and spicy! This is my kind of fast food!

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterProud Italian Cook

I love a good puttanesca, and this one looks terrific!

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Despite its tawdry name, I love this dish. And yours is giving me an appetite at 9:30. I need to stop and go to bed!

August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan from Food Blogga

This looked insta-good.

So now you are now bookmarked. Thank you so much for finding me and allowing me to find you. I have scrolled through page after page and love everything you make!

August 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Cetainly looks delicious and by the sight of that empty plate it must have tasted delicious too.

Tim's comment made me smile!

August 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercasalba

great dish to have in ones arsenal.

perfect pantry cooking!

love it...

August 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercook eat FRET

Thanks for the great tip on properly cooking pasta! I'm going to have to give it a try.

August 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTerry B

Yum! Pasta is my kid of dish.

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

This is great! Here is another twist. While the sauce is cooking, add tuna and parsley and cook for about 2 more minutes. Boil penne and when ready mix them with the sauce. Serve with toasted bread slices. Yum!

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I love pasta puttanesca! But, I add marinated (drained) artichokes, capers, and sliced kalamatas, and a splash or two of white Rhine wine, and almost forgot, rotisserie lemon pepper chicken pieces. It's awesome! Don't forget the parmigiano on top!
Crazy about Roma

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWannabe Italian

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