Born in Naples, the largest city in the Campania region, puttanesca is a gutsy, tomato-based sauce, made with anchovies and packed with plenty of garlic. The backstory of this dish is equally full of character. The term “pasta alla puttanesca’’ quite literally refers to pasta made “in the manner of a prostitute”. Shocking, we know! Food writers have debated the nomenclature since the dish emerged in the 60s, but the common understanding is that the dish was born in Naples’ “case di appuntamenti” (‘’appointment houses’’). As preparing the puttanesca sauce was a labour of mere minutes - indeed, simply ‘’throwing whatever together’’ - this could be done between other, er, obligations.
Despite its dubious origins, spaghetti alla puttanesca has become a staple in Italian cuisine and we love how easy it is to throw together. The perfect go-to dish for lunch when working from home or the ideal way to impress your other-half on date night, this punchy, plucky pasta never fails to hit the spot.
Make Our Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Preparation Time: 30 mins (including cooking time)
Calories per serving: 442 kcal
- 400g fresh spaghetti (see our fresh pasta guide to make your own from scratch)
- Olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2-4 garlic cloves (depending on size), crushed
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes (1tsp if you like it really hot!)
- 5 anchovy fillets (about 50g), finely chopped
- 120g black olives, pitted
- 1 x 400g tin of tomatoes (if you have fresh tomatoes too, they make a delicious addition)
- 2tbsp capers
- Generous handful fresh parsley or fresh basil to garnish, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place about 2tbsp olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the diced onion and fry for 5-10 minutes until soft and translucent. Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic and the chilli flakes, cook for 1-2 minutes, stir regularly to prevent the garlic from sticking or burning.
- Add the anchovies, olives* and capers to the pan along with the tin of chopped tomatoes. Turn up the heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 15 minutes without the lid.
- Whilst the sauce is cooking, bring a large pan of boiling water to the boil. Salt it generously and add your fresh spaghetti. Cook for 2-3 minutes (or as the packet advises) until al dente. Test that it’s ready before draining.
- Transfer the spaghetti to the saucepan, tossing to ensure each strand is covered. Garnish with the roughly chopped parsley or basil leaves and serve immediately. Buon appetito!
*Chef's tip: if you only have green olives these will work in a puttanesca as well!
At Pasta Evangelists, we bring a taste of Italy to your kitchen. Prepared using the freshest ingredients, our gourmet pasta dishes are perfect for those looking to enjoy restaurant-quality meals, delivered to your door, and ready in under five minutes. Order from our weekly menu today, and we’ll offer you 25% off your first delivery - simply enter the code BLOG25 at checkout.