Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is loosely translated to “street walker’s pasta.” There are a lot of stories about how this name came about. The most popular is that the ladies of the evening in Naples used to make Pasta alla Puttanesca and put it out on the windowsill so that the aroma of the sauce would attract prospective clients. Kind of a silly story, but people seem to like it.

Linguine alla Puttanesca

Now, lets talk about anchovies. I know there are probably a lot of people out there who think they don’t like anchovies, and may be tempted to make this excluding them. You certainly can do that if you want, but I am going to ask you nicely not to. Please try it at least once with the anchovies. Chopped up they practically dissolve into the oil when sautéing them, so you don’t have to worry about biting directly into or tasting anchovy. What you will taste, however, is a depth of flavor that will be missing if they are left out. Trust me.

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Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 2 tablespoonsextra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 35 oz can imported italian plum tomatoes, crushed with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 12 gaetta olives, pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine


  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add garlic, anchovy, and red pepper cook until garlic is lightly browned.
  2. Crush tomatoes and add with juices. Fill the empty tomato can 1/4 of the way with water and pour into the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Add capers, olives, and oregano. Cook at a simmer for 20 minutes, until sauce thickens.
  4. While the sauce is cooking bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook uncovered over high heat until al dente.
  5. Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve.
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins

20 Responses

  1. I was always told they made this because it was quick. They had to cook and get back on the street pronto. This looks great. I’m going ot try it Friday.

  2. This is one of my favorites, and a dish which is very dear to me – it’s the first thing I ever cooked for my husband, waaaay back before we were even dating exclusively. Actually, we made it official later that evening…I guess this sauce is pretty powerful stuff! 😉

  3. Puttanesca sauce is one of my very favorites. It has been popping up lately on several sites I visited. I think I’ll have to make it this weekend.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hmm..
    Looks yummy.I love pasta.This is something new.I didn’t try Pasta Puttanesca,but as i look at it i know I’ll love the taste of it.Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe.I can’t wait to try this.This is perfectly for my incoming birthday,i want to cook for myself.:-)
    I’m not a good cook but I’ll try my best.Thanks again.

  5. Love all the receipes, my nonna was from Tuscany and I often feel Italian cooking is in my blood. Brought my own kids up on pasta and my daughter can now fling a salsa pomodoro together really well.

  6. Easy and delicious. We’ve had Pasta alla Puttanesca in some outstanding Italian restaurants, and this recipe is right on. Highly recommended to all spaghetti lovers.

  7. The real story is simple. I was and is called “the whores pasta” puta in Italian is a prostitute. “streetwalker” is just to P.C. to be accurate.
    This sauce was made according to all the Italians I have asked–real Italians in Italy–not north Boston or Brooklyn Italian americans-after the “ladies had finished there work in the early morning hours and were hungry. They bought what was left at the fish mongers-usually anchovies,sardines, and mixed them with some garlic, onions, hot peppers and tomatoes for a simple and delicious sauce for their pasta .
    Not terribly glamorous, but the truth never is.

  8. Sounds delicious.. Pasta is one of my favorite food. If ever have an occasion to my house Pasta is one of my preparation. I am so glad that you placed a recipe of Pasta Puttanesca. I am looking forward to cook Pasta Puttanesca for something new. Thanks for sharing with us.

  9. So I left the anchovies out and substituted bacon (6 strips)… the meal was very well received. My recipe came from the Joy of Cooking. It was very similar to the one listed here…

    Great food!

  10. This is such a good recipe. Being Italian American, I eat this all the time with mama mia and this recipe is just as good as hers. Pasta Puttanesca is my favorite of them all. Grazie mille!

  11. Amate tutte le ricevute, la mia famiglia era dalla Calabria, e la mamma ha usato per cucinare in questo modo. Ho imparato di più con mia madre e mia nonna che la scuola di cucina. Ti amo il sito perché sono purista quando vengono a ricette e conservi la nostra tradizione – grazie a chef.
    Love all the recipes, my family was from Calabria, and mom used to cook these way. I learned more with my mom and grandmother than cooking school. I love you site because I am purist when come to recipes and you maintain our tradition-Thank you chef-

  12. A classic that can’t be beat! I love the story behind this dish. I had no idea. And I agree, the anchovies shouldn’t be left out. Thanks for sharing!!

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