In the Italian culinary tradition Pasta Puttanesca or Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a great classic.
What we are going to show you now is the authentic Italian recipe for Puttanesca, a traditional dish with all its variations.
The simple and flavorful puttanesca sauce recipe calls for Gaeta black olives, peeled tomatoes, capers and anchovies. All enriched with garlic, chili peppers, parsley and the indispensable excellent extra virgin olive oil.
The version with anchovies is more common in Lazio. In the Neapolitan area, they prefer the version without anchovies. In fact, the Puttanesca recipe is also called “aulive e chiapparielli” (olives and capers, in Neapolitan dialect).
The type of pasta that goes best with this sauce is spaghetti or linguine. But this, of course, does not preclude trying other formats such as penne rigate, fusilli or paccheri.
This dish is an explosion of all the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. The original recipe is disputed between Lazio and Campania, but it’s so good that it has trespassed becoming known and loved throughout Italy and even abroad.
Easy, tasty and quick, let’s see how to make Pasta Puttanesca Recipe. In just a few minutes you will bring to the table a mouth-watering dish!
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How to Make Pasta Puttanesca Recipe
- Prep Time: 10 Min
- Cook Time: 20 Min
- Yields : 4
- 350 g (3/4 pound) of spaghetti or linguine
- 400 g (14 oz) of ripe red peeled tomatoes (San Marzano, cherry or grape), fresh or canned
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 5 fillets of anchovies in oil
- 150 g (5 0z) of large black olives, whole or pitted.
- 3 tablespoons of salted capers
- 1 sprig of fresh parsley
- 1 red chili pepper, fresh or dried
- fine salt
Prepare the Ingredients
Step 1) – To make Pasta Puttanesca, start by preparing the tomatoes. If using fresh tomatoes, soak them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then remove the skin. You can even use canned peeled tomatoes without their sauce.
Step 2) – If you use whole olives, you must remove the stone. Don’t worry if the olives break with this step. They should however be chopped into coarse pieces.
If using pitted olives, cut them in half.
Keep some whole ones for the final decoration of the dish.
Cut the garlic clove into small pieces.
Step 3) – Now desalt the capers by placing them in cold running water for a few minutes. This will remove the excess salt and rehydrate the capers a little. Finally chop the fresh parsley.
Now you have all the ingredients ready to make puttanesca sauce.
How to Make Puttanesca Sauce
Step 4) – In a large frying pan put the extra virgin olive oil, the desalted capers, minced garlic, chopped olives, anchovy fillets and whole chili pepper.
Cook over medium heat, stirring until the anchovies have completely dissolved. This takes about 3 to 4 minutes.
Step 5) – Now add the peeled tomatoes and roughly crush them with a fork. Season with a pinch of fine salt just if it’s necessary. Taste before adding it.
Cook the sauce while stirring for about 5 minutes. Finally add the parsley.
Step 6) – Bring plenty of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the cooking time recommended on the package. BUT drain the pasta at least 3 minutes back from cooking time. You must in fact finish cooking in the pan with the sauce.
Step 7) – So drain the spaghetti directly into the pan with the sauce. Finally finish cooking them for the last 3 minutes.
Mix thoroughly and serve with more chopped parsley and whole olives. Pasta Puttanesca is ready, buon appetito!
We recommend eating Spaghetti alla Puttanesca as soon as it is ready.
If they are left over, they can be stored for 1 day in the refrigerator.
Reheat in a microwave or pan by adding a drizzle of oil and a tablespoon of water.
If you intend to store leftover Puttanesca pasta for the next day, use short pasta such as rigatoni or penne, which hold their cooking better.
We do not recommend freezing.
Pasta Puttanesca: Tips and Variants
Traditionally, Gaeta-quality black olives are used for Puttanesca, but green olives are also fine. Often both types are used to give more color to the dish.
The important thing is that they are large and have plenty of pulp.
Of course, pitted olives are very convenient to use and save you some tedious work. However, we recommend using olives with pits and then pitting them as needed. This is because the texture of the pulp is firmer and the flavor is more intense.
If you don’t like fish or anchovies in particular, you can of course not use them.
The variant without anchovies, moreover, seems to be the oldest and most widespread in Campania.
In Lazio, however, anchovies are widely used in many traditional recipes and also in Puttanesca sauce.
Garlic and Chili
If you want a more delicate taste, you can leave the garlic whole and remove it at the end of cooking. If you want an extra touch of garlic, chop it finely and leave it in the sauce as we have shown.
The same goes for the chili pepper. If you love the spicy taste increase the amount and leave it in the sauce, otherwise remove it.
It’s a matter of taste.
Herbs: Parsley or Oregano?
The recipe for Pasta Puttanesca calls for chopped parsley to be sprinkled over the sauce and the finished dish at the end of cooking.
If you don’t like parsley or want a change in flavor, another aromatic herb widely used for this recipe is oregano, as in Marinara sauce.
Oregano, widely used in Mediterranean cooking, has a very intense flavor, so it should be used in moderation.
Both anchovies and capers are very salty ingredients and are often used as salt substitutes. We therefore advise you to be careful about the use of salt in this recipe.
Add a pinch if the tomatoes and olives are particularly sweet, but it is often not necessary.
History of “Puttanesca”: The Meaning Behind the Recipe
There are many myths about the birth of pasta puttanesca and its strange name, but no certainties.
The origins of the recipe date back to at least the 19th century.
The earliest account is that of Ippolito Cavalcanti, a cook and scholar who lived in Naples, who describes a dish quite similar to Puttanesca in one of his popular Neapolitan cookbooks.
The current name “Puttanesca” made its appearance, however, after World War II.
A Brothel in Naples
Some claim that the name of this recipe comes from the owner of a dating house in the Neapolitan Quartieri Spagnoli.
He used to refresh his guests with this quick and easy dish. “Puttana” in fact means “whore” in popular slang.
A Dinner with Friends
Another famous version of the story of the birth of Puttanesca is that of the Ischian architect Sandro Petti. It seems that he was a great fan of cooking. Petti prepared Pasta alla Puttanesca for friends in the legendary “Rangio Fellone,” a very popular restaurant in Ischia in the 1950s and 1960s.
Since Petti did not have many ingredients on hand and friends insisted that he cook something, he said, “I will definitely make a puttanata.” “Puttanata” means ” something done badly, in a hurry or a crap, a mess”.
So the architect brought a steaming pot of spaghetti seasoned with garlic, oil, tomato, olives, capers and parsley. This dish was obviously a great success. And in time “puttanata ” became “puttanesca.”