International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pasta alla Puttanesca

Bowl of pasta puttanesca

(Italian pasta with tomatoes, olives and capers)

Average: 3.8 (11 votes)

Puttana is the Italian word for "whore," and legend has it that this dish was used by Neapolitan ladies of the night to entice potential clients to sample their other offerings. It's a simple, straightforward dish with bold Mediterannean flavors.

The sauce should cook only a minimal amount of time so that each ingredient maintains its identity and the olives won't bleed their color into the dish. Also, take care with how much salt you add since the anchovies, capers and olives are all salty ingredients.

4 to 6 servings


  • Olive oil -- 1/4 cup
  • Garlic, minced -- 4 to 6 cloves
  • Anchovies fillets, rinsed and minced -- 4 to 6
  • Red pepper flakes -- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
  • Tomatoes, chopped or crushed -- 3 cups
  • Capers, rinsed -- 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Kalamata or other black olives, pitted and sliced or roughly chopped -- 1/4 cup
  • Basil, shredded -- 1/2 bunch
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Spaghetti or bucatini pasta, cooked according to package directions -- 1 pound


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes and saute just until the the garlic just starts to brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes and capers and simmer for 5 or 6 minutes to cook down the tomatoes somewhat.
  3. Add the olives, most of the basil, salt and pepper and simmer for another 4 or 5 minutes more.
  4. Adjust seasoning, toss with the cooked pasta and serve hot, garnished with the remaining basil.

Pasta alla Puttanesca Variations

  • Substitute chopped parsley for some or all of the basil. You can also add a little dried oregano if you like.
  • Add more or less red pepper to adjust the dishes heat to your liking.
  • Eliminate the anchovies for a vegetarian dish.


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