Friday, 6 June 2008

spaghetti alla puttanesca

This is probably my all time favourite pasta sauce. It’s got all the right strong, pungent ingredients to make a punchy, lively sauce: garlic, capers, chilli and anchovies.

All my favourite sour, bitter and salty flavours!

The irony with this dish is that Jonas makes it so well, even though he can't eat it because it contains fish.

For those who speak Italian, the name of this sauce is slightly perplexing, translating to “whore style”. What makes it whore-like is beyond me, but there are many theories.
• normal Napoletana sauce “tarted” up to have a spicy flavour and pungent smell
• offered to prospective customers at a low price to entice them into a brothel
• quick, cheap meal that prostitutes could prepare between customers

A more thoughtful origin came from Diane Seed who wrote in her book, Top 100 Pasta Sauces:
“Conscientious Italian housewives usually shop at the local market every day to buy fresh food, but the [prostitutes] were only allowed one day per week for shopping, and their time was valuable. Their specialty became a sauce made quickly from odds and ends in the larder.”

Whatever the origins, it is not a traditional sauce and only entered the written word in 1961. The Unione Industriali Pastai Italiani (Italian Union of Pasta Makers) claim the sauce came into its own in the 1960s.

Traditionally puttanesca is served with spaghetti, but truth be known I prefer it with short pasta such as penne or rigatoni that are rigate (grooved) to catch more sauce.

I’m sharing this recipe with Ruth from Once Upon A Feast as part of her Presto Pasta Night Friday event. I can’t always get myself organised fast enough on Fridays to contribute to PPN, but when I can, I do!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Jonas' very own recipe. Serves 4.

400 grams spaghetti
500ml tomato passata
½ small Spanish onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon small capers
1/3 cup black olives, halved
3 anchovy fillets (from can or jar with oil), finely chopped
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil


1. Begin boiling water for pasta. When ready, add pasta.

2. While waiting for water to boil, heat oil in saucepan, fry onion for 1 minute.

3. Add garlic, anchovies and chilli flakes and cook for another minute, mashing anchovies slightly.

4. Add tomato paste, cook for 1 minute.

5. Add passata, oregano, capers, olives and bay leaf then turn down heat to simmer until pasta is ready. Sauce should thicken a little and anchovies will disintegrate.

6. Mix through pasta and put into serving plates. Serve with plenty of grated parmigiano.

for a vegetarian version, omit anchovies and add 1 extra tablespoon of capers.



  1. Hi Anna,
    I found your blog and would like to invite you to participate in an Ambassador Program focused on kids nutrition. Sorry for the random post, I couldn't find an email contact. If you're interested, visit for more info. Touch base if you have any questions. I hope to see you in the program.


  2. Wow it looks so delicious. I love that there is chillie in it, which will give a special kick to the pasta dish.

  3. Puttanesca is seriously one of my favorite pasta dishes. Yours looks awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I recently made spaghetti alla puttanesca and really enjoyed it. What a great combination of flavours! Yours looks great! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  5. Need fresh pasta! Otherwise looks great :)

  6. Looksand sounds delicious Anna! gotta give it a try:)

  7. I make a similar pasta at least once a week. I have a weakness for garlic, chilli and anchovies :)

  8. yummy!!! still no reference to me or restaurants though so things still blow around here

  9. Haha! This reminds me of when Christian and I went to Rippas restaurant and I casually said to Christian "what was that dish that Anna always order?".

    And the WAITER answered "That would be the Puttanesca" :-D

    You must have had a few ;-)


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