Simple and flavorful, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is an Italian classic that can be prepared with a few ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen; tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and olive oil. It’s a perfect weeknight meal as it can be on your table in around 30 minutes.
There are as many explanations for the origins of pasta puttanesca as there are ways on how to prepare it. Some say a restaurant in Ischia created the first puttanesca, while others say that “ladies of the evening” in Naples created it because they needed something cheap and quick to prepare. It’s most likely to have originated in one of two regions, either Campania or Lazio, Italy. The two regions versions are a little different but both are excellent. In Naples, the capital of Campania, the sauce is based on tomatoes, olive oil, black olives from Gaeta, capers, garlic, chilies and oregano. In the region of Lazio, the sauce is made with the addition of anchovies and parlsey. Either way it is made, the flavor is irresistible and the well known dish can now be found all over the world.
Gather your ingredients, do a little prep work, start the sauce and put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta. By the time your pasta is cooked, the sauce should be finished as well. It is as easy as can be. What are you waiting for, give pasta puttanesca a try.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves 6 to 8 as a first course, 4 as a generous main course, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 16 oz. dried spaghetti (figure 2 oz. of pasta per person)
- 3 – 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
- 1/2 tsp. more or less, crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 4 anchovy fillets, chopped, or 2 tsp. of anchovy paste (optional)
- 1/2 c. pitted black olives (Gaeta olives are traditional but Kalamata olives may be substituted)
- 2 Tbsp. capers (if using salted capers, rinse well and dry)
- 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (good quality San Marzano tomatoes are recommended)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- a small handful of fresh parsley, chopped fine
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and anchovy. Stir until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes then add the olives, capers and tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and cook about 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add in half the parsley and toss to combine.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions, stirring occasionally. When pasta is al dente, transfer it to the sauce using tongs and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water, if needed and toss until the sauce is creamy and coats the pasta. Serve the plates and garnish with the remaining parsley.
I suggest using San Marzano canned tomatoes. They will be labeled as “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino“. These certified tomatoes are only sold whole or in fillets. To know they are true San Marzano Tomatoes, look for the certification seals of both the DOP and the consortium as well as a certification number located on the backside of the label.
Salt only after tasting towards the end of cooking as the olives, capers and anchovies all have salt.
I like to use anchovy paste in a tube instead of whole filets as it is easily stored in the refrigerator. Either are great in this recipe.
When garden fresh tomatoes are in season, they can be used for a delicious fresh sauce.
Spaghetti is normally used in pasta alla puttanesca but if you prefer another pasta, linguine, small rigatoni or penne go well with the sauce.
Some people add Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano but it is not traditionally used in this dish if you use anchovies.Notes From The Kitchen
Most all of us have pasta, oils, spices and canned goods that we stock in our kitchen pantries that can be the building blocks of our daily cooking. They can be quickly turned into a delicious homemade meal and I believe that spaghetti alla puttanesca is one of those dishes.