Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is a lifesaver for those hectic evenings when you need a quick, flavorful meal that the whole family will love. This classic Italian dish combines robust ingredients like tomatoes, olives, and anchovies, creating a savory sauce that clings beautifully to al dente pasta. The best part? You can have this dish on the table in under 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights when time is of the essence.

The recipe starts with sautéing garlic in olive oil until it’s fragrant, then adding anchovy fillets to melt into the oil, creating a deep umami base. Crushed tomatoes are then added, along with chopped olives, infusing the sauce with briny, salty goodness. A pinch of red pepper flakes adds just the right amount of heat, and a handful of fresh parsley brightens everything up at the end. The sauce simmers while the pasta cooks, allowing the flavors to meld together perfectly.

What I love most about Pasta Puttanesca is its versatility. You can easily customize it to suit your pantry or dietary preferences. Swap the anchovies for a vegetarian version by adding extra olives or sun-dried tomatoes, or toss in some cooked shrimp or chicken for added protein. This dish pairs wonderfully with a simple green salad and a glass of red wine, making it a delightful meal to share with family and friends without spending hours in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca Recipe


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped , peeled and chopped
  • Two 14 1/2 ounce cans chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted and chopped if desired
  • 12 to 16 ounces penne, preferably spelt pasta (spelt has a lovely light texture and nutty flavor, not to mention a healthful wholesomeness)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves (you could slip basil in place of parsley if you prefer)


1 – In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and sweat. (No, not you, she means to cook the garlic and chile over moderately lowish heat so they slowly, slowly throw off their moisture). Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and then take it down to low heat.

2 – Let the sauce simmer while you pull out a pestle and mortar and grind the anchovies with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a paste. Add the paste to the simmering sauce and carry on with the simmering for about 20 minutes more. The sauce should be musky and heady.

3 – Meanwhile, cook the pasta as directed on the box until it is al dente and drain.

4 – You could add 1 teaspoon brown sugar to the sauce here, although I suggest you taste it first and then decide whether you’d like to add it or not. Add the olives to the sauce, spoon it over the pasta, scatter with a big handful of parsley, and pretend you’re in a steamy restaurant in a winding alleyway in Naples.


Scroll to Top