This pasta puttanesca recipe features olives, garlic, and red pepper flakes in the puttanesca sauce for tangy burst of flavor.
Have you ever made a pasta puttanesca recipe? It’s a spicy Italian pasta sauce with a somewhat dubious namesake: see the What is pasta puttanesca? section below for what it means in Italian! Not only is it easy to make, but its incredibly robust flavor also makes for a flavorful and satisfying meal. It’s a perfect, simple meal to whip up for guests, or even on a weeknight. The key to this pasta puttanesca recipe is the olives – make sure to get good quality Kalamata olives! If you’re not an olive person, I’d still give this one a try. Kalamata olives straight out of the jar have a strong taste, but within the sauce they make for a wonderful flavor that’s not too overpowering.
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What is pasta puttanesca?
Often associated with Naples, Italy, puttanesca is a rich sauce made from anchovies, capers, olives, and sometimes garlic, chili peppers, and red pepper flakes. Although generally served with spaghetti, pasta puttanesca can work with any long pasta shape. We used bucatini with this pasta puttanesca, which is basically a hollow spaghetti noodle.
What does pasta puttanesca mean? Literally in Italian it’s “spaghetti in the style of a whore”. Historians don’t quite know why. But according to this source, it isn’t too far-fetched to say that the powerful mix of anchovies, olives, and capers might have something in common with the scent of a mid-century Italian prostitute. Either way, it’s an incredibly delicious simple pasta dish that’s appropriate for people of all ages, despite the name!
We’ve omitted the anchovies from our pasta puttanesca recipe, but you can add them in if desired (3 to 4 minced, or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste). Overall, we found this adaption suited our tastes with just the right amount of spice and not too much oil (as some pasta puttanesca versions can tend towards the oily side). We’ll definitely be adding this one to our repertoire – future dinner guests, beware!
How to store pasta puttanesca sauce
This sauce will keep well in the fridge for four to five days, but you can also store it in the freezer for up to three months. To freeze this pasta puttanesca, let it cool to room temperature before transferring it to an air-tight container (mason jars work well for this). You can also freeze the sauce in freezer-safe bags; lay the bags flat on a baking tray until frozen, then store them in the freezer however you’d like. Freezing the bags of sauce on a tray makes it easier to store them, as they take up less space this way. When you’re ready to enjoy this sauce, simply pop a jar into your fridge until thawed, then reheat on the stove.
Looking for more Italian recipes?
Outside of this pasta puttanesca recipe, here are a few more of our favorite Italian recipes:
- Italian Vegetable and Gnocchi Soup
- 15-Minute Gnocchi with Romesco Sauce
- Pumpkin Sage Stuffed Shells
- Gemelli Pasta with Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- Creamy Almond Milk Pasta with Herbs
- Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)
- Best Margherita Pizza
- Orecchiette Pasta with Lemon Asparagus
- Vegan Pasta Marinara
This recipe is…
Without anchovy paste, this pasta puttanesca recipe is vegetarian. Without the Parmesan garnish as well, it’s also vegan, dairy-free and plant based. To make gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta noodles, which are now widely available at US groceries.Print
What is puttanesca sauce? This pasta puttanesca recipe features olives, garlic, and red pepper flakes for tangy burst of flavor.
- 1 pound long pasta noodles (spaghetti, bucatini, etc)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste or 3 anchovy fillets (omit for vegetarian or vegan)
- 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
- 1/4 cup capers
- Parsley, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes, for garnish (omit cheese for vegan)
- Bring a large pot of of salted water to a boil (about 1 tablespoon kosher salt). Boil the pasta until al dente.
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic. If the olives are not sliced, slice them in half. In a separate large pot or saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt, and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
- Add the olives and capers to the tomato sauce. Continue to simmer until the pasta is done.
- Drain the pasta and stir it into the tomato sauce. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley, and additional red pepper flakes to taste.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: puttanesca recipe, pasta puttanesca, vegetarian pasta recipe
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.