Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

If you ask an Italian which food is the best in the world, he will say that of course that is Italian food. If you then ask further, he will tell you that the food from his own region is best. If again you ask further, it’s only food from his own city or even quarter that is superior. And in the end, it’s the food of his mamma or nonna that is really the best.

I like the name of this pasta dish. “Puttana” means whore, so this is “whore’s spaghetti”. There are various theories why it’s called this way, and I have my own which is probably not true but I like it so I am telling you anyway. You see, there are many versions of puttanesca around. Common ingredients are anchovies, garlic, chile pepper, capers, tomatoes, olives, and parsley. But I have also seen versions with tuna or oregano. I have always defined puttanesca as ‘whatever I have in my pantry’. Hence my theory, puttanesca is pasta that ‘does it’ with many ingredients, just like a whore ‘does it’ with many men 😉

Puttanesca is quick and easy to make, it doesn’t take more time than it takes to boil the spaghetti, and has a lot of flavor. Puttanesca is not usually served with grated parmigiano.


For 2 servings

150-200 grams (1/3 – 1/2 pound) spaghetti

1 can (400 grams/16 oz) peeled tomatoes, chopped, or 500 grams (1.1 lbs) fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 Tbsp capers (salted or sour), rinsed

chile pepper, fresh or dried

fresh parsley or fresh oregano, chopped

3 anchovies fillets (optional), chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp olives (black or green, pitted), chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and spaghetti and cook al dente according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the garlic and anchovies over low heat. Do not let the garlic turn brown. The anchovies should melt.

Add the tomatoes. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until the sauce has thickened.

Add the capers and olives the last minute to warm through.

Add drained spaghetti and most of the parsley. Toss to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve on warm plates, sprinkled with remaining parsley.

5 thoughts on “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

  1. It’s a great dish…and that is one more version of the story, as far as the name. We like yours.

    We heard it was a dish you can throw together quickly because “the lady” was always “busy”…


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