Traditional recipes

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 28.2-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Recipe Preparation

  • Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with puree, olives, anchovies, capers, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add sauce and parsley. Toss over low heat until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with cheese.

Recipe by Martha Rose Shulman , Max Holmes of San Miguel de Allende MexicoReviews Section

Spaghetti Puttanesca (Spaghetti With Capers, Olives, and Anchovies) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Using a low volume of water for the pasta increases the water's starchiness, which will help to bind the sauce.
  • Finishing the pasta in the sauce coats each noodle with flavor.

"Puttanesca" literally translates to "in the style of prostitutes," supposedly because the pungent aromas of garlic, anchovies, capers, and olives tossed with pasta were how Neapolitan sex workers would lead customers to their doors. This is one of those stories that seem, in the words of Douglas Adams, apocryphal or at least wildly inaccurate. That said, it's a fitting title—puttanesca packs an aromatic punch and then some.

Spaghetti Puttanesca Recipe

TRADITIONAL ITALIAN RECIPE: Spaghetti Puttanesca ( in italy known as Spaghetti ALLA Puttanesca ), literally "spaghetti at the whore style or in the garbage style" is a tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish invented in the mid-20th century.

The Spaghetti Puttanesca Recipe has some very typical ingredients widely used in Southern Italian cuisine: tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic.

No-one know exactly who invented this recipe / dish, but various accounts exist as to when and how the dish originated, but it likely dates to the mid-twentieth century. The earliest known mention of it is in Raffaele La Capria’s Ferito a Morte (Mortal Wound), a 1961 Italian novel which mentions "Spaghetti Puttanesca come li fanno a Siracusa (Spaghetti Puttanesca as they make it in Syracuse)".

The sauce became popular in the 1960s, according to the Professional Union of Italian Pasta Makers.

The 1971 edition of the Cucchiaio d’argento (The Silver Spoon), one of Italy's most prominent cookbooks, has no recipe with this name, but two which are similar: The Neapolitan spaghetti alla partenopea, is made with anchovies and generous quantities of oregano while spaghetti alla siciliana is distinguished by the addition of green peppers. Still again there is a Sicilian style popular around Palermo that includes olives, anchovies and raisins.

The sauce alone, Puttanesca Sauce, is called in italian 'Sugo alla Puttanesca'.

There are many recipes for this famouse dish, so the puttanesca recipe may differ according to preferences for instance the Neapolitan Puttanesca Recipe is without anchovies, unlike the popular in Lazio Puttanesca Recipe, where chili peppers are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the Pussanesca sauce is a little salty (from the capers, olives, and anchovies) and quite fragrant (from the garlic).

Traditionally, the puttanesca sauce is served with spaghetti, although it also goes well with penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli.

Chopped garlic and anchovies (omitted in the Neapolitan Puttanesca recipe ) are sautéed in olive oil. Chopped chili peppers, olives, capers, diced tomatoes and oregano are added along with salt and black pepper to taste. The cook then reduces this mixture by simmering and pours it over spaghetti cooked al dente. The final touch is a topping of parsley.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and cook the garlic until it begins to soften. Add the pepper flakes or pepper paste and cook 1 minute. Stir in the anchovy and tomato paste and cook a couple of minutes. Stir in the green and black olives, capers and tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes until the tomatoes start to shrivel. Raise the heat to high and add the wine, allowing it to reduce for a couple of minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm while the spaghetti cooks.

Cook the spaghetti in 4 quarts of boiling, salted water (1 tablespoon salt) until the spaghetti is al dente, meaning that when a strand is broken in half, no raw flour is visible. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the reserved water to the sauce and stir over low heat to blend. Add the spaghetti and toss well with the sauce.

Serve in bowls with an olive or two and Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled over each serving.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

A great classic of Neapolitan cuisine, spaghetti alla puttanesca is a traditional pasta dish from the Campania region of Italy. It’s prepared with a sauce made from peeled tomatoes, garlic, capers, black olives from Gaeta, hot peppers, parsley or oregano, and usually, anchovy fillets.

Traditionally, this recipe uses spaghetti, although there are versions based on linguine or penne, or bucatini, a kind of thick spaghetti that’s hollow in the center.

Where does spaghetti alla puttanesca come from?

In Naples, spaghetti alla puttanesca is more popularly known as aulive e chiapparielle (“olives and capers”), or even pasta alla marinara.

The traditional Neapolitan recipe does not include anchovies but it was the region of Latium (Lazio) that made the use of them popular in this dish. A variation that was then taken up all over Italy.

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In some places, this dish is also known as spaghetti alla buona donna or spaghetti alla bella donna, which can be translated as “beautiful woman’s spaghetti”.

What is the origin of spaghetti alla puttanesca?

To this day, there are many myths behind the origins of spaghetti alla puttanesca, so it’s hard to know which one is true. However, everyone agrees that this dish would have appeared in Italy in the middle of the 20th century.

The most popular legend has it that it was invented in Neapolitan brothels, hence the name “alla puttanesca”, which roughly means, “in the way of the whores”. In some areas, this pasta dish is called pasta alla matrona (Madam style pasta).

Made with canned ingredients, it was a quick and inexpensive dish, ideal for re-energizing prostitute clients, so they could perform their spousal duties when back home. It is also said that its enticing aroma served to attract the attention of patrons passing by.

Another version, reported by Il Golfo newspaper in 2005, attributes the invention of the dish to chef Sandro Petti. In the 1950s he was one of the owners of Rancio Fellone, a famous restaurant / nightclub in Ischia.

The explanation is based on a different interpretation of the word, “puttanesca”. This is a derivative of “puttana”, a rather crude expression that Italians use in everyday language, the equivalent of “shit” or “bitch”.

In this story, a group of hungry customers ask the chef for a quick late-night meal. Petti, taken aback, explains to them that he does not have enough ingredients to cook them a real dish. The impatient customer replies, “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi“, which could be politely translated as, “prepare us whatever“.

Petti then improvised the dish using the few ingredients that were in his cupboards, namely pasta, tomatoes, capers and olives. Thus spaghetti alla puttanesca was born.

How to prepare

The main part of cooking this dish is the sauce. In Italian, sugo alla puttanesca.

The first step is to rinse the capers to remove excess salt, the anchovies are also very salty. Then brown the garlic and chilli in a pan with olive oil, before adding the anchovies and chopped capers.

Next are the peeled tomatoes, which should then cook for a few minutes until they melt.

Once the sauce is ready, it’s time to add the black olives, herbs, and finally the pasta which has been cooked al dente.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca should be eaten immediately.


While Neapolitans prefer spaghetti, sugo alla puttanesca goes well with other types of pasta as well. Penne alla puttanesca, bucatini alla puttanesca, linguine alla puttanesca or even vermicelli alla puttanesca are all to be found.

Some variations use green olives instead of black, as well as sardines or canned tuna instead of anchovies.

In Sicily, around Palermo, the local version sometimes contains grapes.

This recipe is validated by our Italian culinary expert, Benny the Chef. Chef Benny is an Italian chef, culinary teacher, awards winner, entertainer, and the author of “The Art of Cooking According to Me”.

Nina Parker serves up her vibrant spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe, inspired by the classic version whipped up by Sandro Petti on the island of Ischia in the 1950s. She serves the puttanesca sauce with wholegrain spelt spaghetti for a toothsome twist.

In the 1950s Sandro Petti was the owner of a popular restaurant on Ischia called Rancho Fellone. This restaurant-come-nightclub quickly became frequented by the dolce vita who would enjoy summers on the island. One night, Sandro had some hungry customers arrive late begging him to rustle something up from the kitchen. Although he had run out of food he didn’t want to disappoint his guests so he pulled together what he could from his bare cupboards – olives, anchovies, olive oil, garlic and a few tomatoes. These ingredients were thrown together and served with spaghetti. The guests were obsessed with this delicious meal and Sandro shrugged it off as nothing special Those guests went on to spread the word and came back to eat it every night. Later, this throw-together dish evolved to be known as Spaghetti alla puttanesca, which many translate as ‘whore’s pasta’. Davide Conte, who lives on the island, and knows Sandro well, told me this wonderful story. Sadly, on this trip, I missed the opportunity to meet Sandro but Davide tells me that Sandro is still surprised when he thinks back to that night when he was in a rush in his kitchen. He could never have imagined that what he was about to create would be a dish to go down in Italian history.

Recipes from NINA Capri by Nina Parker, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 2 June 2016 in hardback at £25, eBook £12.99

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca | Authentic Italian Recipe

This savory pasta dish has a not-so-savory background: it was traditionally known as the food of choice for Neapolitan prostitutes! Don't let the history turn you off, though. Pasta alla puttanesca is simple to make and very delicious!

Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:

Serves two. Note: to make more servings, scale all the of ingredients except the garlic.

For this recipe, you will need:

- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

- 1 1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

Crush the garlic clove while keeping the skin on. Add it and the olive oil into a skillet and heat on medium temperature for no more than 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and add the anchovies.

Allow the anchovies to fry for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, then add the capers, olives and tomatoes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season it generously with two small handfuls of salt and add the pasta.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 6-8 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened but not completely dissolved. The sauce shouldn't be watery, but if it loses too much moisture simply add a spoonful of the pasta water as needed. Salt to taste and turn off the heat until the pasta has finished cooking.

When the pasta is very al dente (usually about a minute less than the "al dente" cook time recommended on the packaging), use tongs to transfer it into the sauce. Add 1oz. (about a shot glass) of the pasta water into the sauce as well.

History and etymology of spaghetti alla puttanesca

History-wise, it seems that this dish already existed in the 19th century, when in several cookbooks a similar dish was presented. The first mention of this dish under the current name occurred in 1960s.

Etymology-wise, the name of spaghetti alla puttanesca is very particular and we have various theories on how the name developed. One of these theories takes into account the name of the dish, as in Italian puttanesca might derive from puttana, whose translation is prostitute, but more with a negative meaning. This said the theory has that this dish was born in one of the quarters of Naples that was known for prostitution.

A second theory relates again to the name of the dish. This time the term puttanesca is meant as something said to mean that the pasta dish has a lot of ingredients, all thrown in there. The significance relates to the English word shit used as an all-purpose profanity.


Serves : 4


  • 500g dried spaghetti
  • small can tuna in olive oil
  • small tin anchovies in olive oil ( approx 30g )
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs capers, drained
  • 1-2 fresh red chilis
  • 1 handful pitted black olives
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • a pinch ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon

Garlic Bread

  • ciabatta loaf
  • small handful fresh parsley
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic ( to taste )
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil


  • 200g plain chocolate ( min.70% cocoa solids )
  • knob butter
  • 300ml single cream
  • 3 clementines
  • a pinch salt
  • Biscuits for dipping

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe

I used to eat Spaghetti alla Puttanesca during the long days at the beach when I was a kid, so I decided to share with you this easy recipe.

The origins of this pasta are unclear: Lazio or Campania, we don’t really care as long as it’s tasty! In this videorecipe, I’ll also reveal the meaning of the name “Puttanesca”!

To cook this meal, you’re not going to need much, but do make sure you have enough chili available because Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is meant to be HOT!

In my version I use anchovies to add some extra taste to the dish: that’s how I do it but if you don’t like anchovies, you can certainly skip this ingredient.

If you liked this recipe (I mean… the best Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe!), remember to SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel and HIT the bell, to always be up to date with the tastiest and most authentic Italian food! Let the ‘likes’, the ‘comments’, the ‘follow’ and the ‘share post’ rain please!