Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca in a bowl

Pasta Puttanesca is more of a combination of flavors than a recipe. It’s very much a winter dish for me, one that I almost always have all the ingredients for, which is good because its strong salty/briny tomato-ey flavor is one that can induce sudden cravings.

Pasta Puttanesca in a bowl

I like my puttanesca on the lighter side. I don’t use canned tomatoes, or paste, I use fresh, no matter what the season, and I only cook the sauce briefly. The tomatoes I had in sitting in my big wooden bowl on the counter were nothing to write home about. When I chopped them up the color was more pinkish than rich red. But it doesn’t really matter, they get cooked down a bit in this dish and will release their sweetness and give the pasta a nice fruitiness that canned tomatoes just can’t. The pitted Kalamata olives I used were from a jar, if I had thought ahead I would have bought fresh from the olive bar or a specialty store, but again, it doesn’t really matter. Just make sure you use flavorful black olives, don’t buy the kind that make good finger puppets.

One last thing, don’t leave out the anchovies. They actually will break down and melt into the oil as soon as they heat up, so you won’t even know they’re there, and the flavor and aroma is unmistakable. Fresh parsley is also important. I like my Puttanesca with whole grain or whole wheat thin spaghetti, and an unorthodox sprinkling of pine nuts on top.

Pasta Puttanesca in a bowl
5 from 2 votes

Pasta Puttanesca

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Author Sue Moran


  • 12 oz whole grain or whole wheat thin spaghetti cooked al dente
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • oil packed anchovies chopped (I used just 3, use as many or as little as you like)
  • 4 medium to large fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 cup rough chopped pitted black olives
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine or pasta water
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • aged cheese for garnish Parmesan, Romano, I used aged provolone


  • Coat the bottom of a pan with olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and anchovies on medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Don't brown them.  The anchovies will immediately melt into the oil and give you a great aroma.
  • Add in the tomatoes, olives and red pepper flakes.  Heat to a simmer and add in 1/3 cup dry white wine. (If you don't want to use wine, use some of the cooking water from the pasta at the end to thin the sauce) Simmer for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes break down and the sauce melds together.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the pasta to al dente, and add it to the sauce pot along with the parsley, tossing really well.
  • Serve the pasta with pines nuts and grated cheese.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2020 at 5:14 am

    5 stars
    This is so delicious, like something you would order from a gourmet restaurant. The blend of flavors is amazing.

  • Reply
    Margie MacKenzie
    January 13, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    This looks like a perfect pantry raid dinner for my family – my favorite way of cooking after the indulgences of November and December. I have wonderful jarred Italian oven roasted tomatoes that I will use rather than fresh, and everything else! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    Pretty. Good. Food.
    December 17, 2011 at 1:23 am

    Yummm, sounds great!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Love olives and love this dish. Beautifully done.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    How interesting. I rarely use tomatoes in a pasta without going full-on sauce. This fresh recipe sounds delicious!

  • Reply
    December 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    ha ha ha ha ha, in my new-to-olives-naivety, I’m sitting here thinking… “There are olives that do NOT make good finger puppets?!” Then I realized you were referring to what I consider fancy olives. hee hee. If they come in a jar versus a can, my husband is sure to love them and they are guaranteed to be too strong for this girl. I do love olives, but apparently not the good ones!

    Now, anchovies? You are determined to push me WAY out of my comfort zone today, aren’t you? Hmmmmm. I’m going to run this by my sweet husband and see if it appeals. If it does, it just might make the menu. I need to be challenged occasionally, right? You haven’t steered me wrong yet. Do your kids like this too? Or are they all old enough that their palates are more developed? 😉

    Have a GREAT day, Sue!

  • Reply
    Sarah (Snippets of Thyme)
    December 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Yes, I can imagine those flavors could induce a sudden craving! Mmm…like for those anchovies. They remind me that in Ireland, I wanted to try “kippers” for breakfast. I was gently talked out of ordering them but that just left me all the more curious!

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    December 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    Mmmmm, I really enjoy a good pasta dish. This one looks very satisfying. I also love anchovies!!

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