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    Pasta Puttanesca

    How about a restaurant quality Italian dinner on the table in about 25 minutes? Well that’s our Pasta Puttanesca recipe!

    It’s light, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. Easy enough for a busy weeknight, puttanesca is also company worthy.

    If you want to add one easy pasta to your weeknight menu, it has to be pasta puttanesca!

    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    We love our quick and easy pasta nights. From creamy and decadent Jambalaya Pasta to light and summery Pomodoro Pasta, we can’t get enough.

    Now, we’ve found a new favorite!

    What is Pasta Puttanesca?

    Pasta Puttanesca is a classic Italian dish that originated in Naples in the mid-20th century. The name “Puttanesca” refers to, um, ladies of the night. Not sure where that came from. 🤷‍♀️

    The sauce is known for its bold, robust flavors and typically includes tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, anchovies, and chili flakes. These create a combination that’s savory, tangy, a little spicy, and full of umami.

    The puttanesca sauce is most commonly served with spaghetti, but can be paired with other types of pasta as well.

    It’s relatively simple and quick to prepare, making it a great choice for restaurant quality weeknight dinners.

    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    Why We Love It

    1. The Bold and Complex Flavors: This Pasta Puttanesca combines the savory notes of garlic, anchovies, and olives with a fiery kick from the red chili flakes and the tanginess of San Marzano tomatoes. It results in a dish that’s simultaneously bold, zesty, and layered with flavor.
    2. It’s Quick and Easy to Make: With minimal prep and cooking time, this recipe is perfect for busy weeknight dinners.
    3. Versatility: While traditional Pasta Puttanesca is served with spaghetti, you can easily substitute other pasta types based on what you have on hand or personal preference.
    4. Customizable: The beauty of this recipe lies in its adaptability. Whether you prefer more heat, more garlic, or a different type of olive, you can make this dish your own.
    5. Crowd-Pleaser: Whether you’re cooking for your family or hosting a dinner party, this Pasta Puttanesca is sure to impress.
    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    Spaghetti Puttanesca Ingredients

    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Provides a base for the sauce and brings out the flavor of the other ingredients.
    • Garlic– You know we love it!
    • Anchovies – They don’t make the sauce fishy, but add an umami richness to the sauce.
    • San Marzano Tomatoes – You can use other canned tomatoes if needed, but San Marzano are best.
    • Tomato Paste – Deepens the tomato flavor and thickens the sauce.
    • Kalamata Olives – Delivers a pop of briny flavor and chewy texture.
    • Capers – Lends a unique tart and salty touch to the dish.
    • Seasonings – Salt, pepper, sugar, red chili flakes and fresh parsley.
    • Pasta – It’s traditionally served with spaghetti, but your choice.
    • Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated for garnish.

    Easy Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

    1. Create the puttanesca sauce base: Sauté garlic, anchovies and red chili flakes in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and parsley, then simmer for 10-15 minutes.

    sauce before adding olives and capers

    2. Cook the pasta: While the sauce is simmering, boil the spaghetti in salted water to al dente. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water before draining.

    3. Add olives and capers: Mix well and cook 1-2 minutes.

    adding olives and capers

    4. Complete the dish: Toss pasta into the sauce until well coated. If the sauce has thickened up a lot, you can add in a little of the reserved pasta water. Taste and adjust for salt, pepper and sugar. Serve garnished with more parsley and freshly shredded parmesan cheese.

    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    Can I Skip the Anchovies?

    Don’t worry, the anchovies don’t make the sauce fishy! You won’t even know they’re in there, they just add a briny umami character.

    That being said, if you don’t have them on hand, or want to make it vegan, you can just replace them with a bit more capers.

    Recipe Notes and Tips

    • Quality of ingredients: Given the simplicity of this recipe, the quality of your ingredients can make a big difference. Use the best extra virgin olive oil and San Marzano tomatoes.
    • Hand crush tomatoes: Hand crushing the tomatoes gives a more rustic and homemade feel to the sauce. However, you can also blend them if you prefer a smoother sauce.
    • Pasta water: Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water before draining.
    • Spaghetti cooking time: Always cook your spaghetti to al dente. This means it should be cooked so it’s still firm when bitten. Overcooking your spaghetti can result in a mushy dish.
    • Serve immediately: Pasta Puttanesca is best served immediately. The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce if left to sit, and it can become dry.
    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    What to Serve with It

    You can certainly enjoy this pasta on its own for a light meal. However, we often like a fresh salad on the side. Caesar Salad, Wedge Salad and Greek Salad are all great choices.

    Some crusty bread like our easy No Knead Bread goes great too.

    Leftovers and Storage

    Pasta Puttanesca is great as leftovers. Refrigerate for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

    Reheat on stovetop over medium heat, or in the microwave. If the dish has dried out a bit, you can add in a splash of olive oil or water while reheating.

    This Pasta Puttanesca is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!

    Whip up a quick and easy batch of our Pasta Puttanesca, and discover your newfound pasta obsession. It’s that good! And if you love these flavors as much as we do, be sure to check out our Chicken Puttanesca.

    Make sure to save or pin this recipe so you always know where to find it. And don’t forget to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you!

    Pasta Puttanesca, in our Gypsy Bowl… enjoy!

    Try these other great Italian recipes
    Pasta e Piselli
    Steak Pizzaiola
    Pasta alla Norma
    Chicken Cacciatore
    Bolognese Sauce
    Pasta Primavera
    Shrimp and Polenta
    Penne alla Vodka

    featured image for pasta puttanesca recipe post

    Pasta Puttanesca

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 25 minutes

    This easy Pasta Puttanesca recipe is a quick and light dish, yet boldly flavored with garlic, anchovies, olives and capers. It's yum!


    • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
    • 1 tsp red chili flakes
    • 3-4 anchovy filets, finely chopped
    • 28oz whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed
    • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
    • ½ cup kalamata olives, halved
    • ¼ cup capers
    • 2 Tbsp parsley + more for garnish
    • 8oz spaghetti
    • salt, to taste
    • pepper, to taste
    • sugar, to taste
    • parmesan cheese, freshly grated for garnish


    1. In a skillet over medium heat, add extra virgin olive oil. Add garlic, red chili flakes and anchovy. Sauté 1-2 minutes.
    2. Crush the whole tomatoes by hand in a large bowl, then add to the pan along with tomato paste and 2 Tbsp parsley. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    3. While the sauce is cooking, boil the pasta in salted water to al dente according to the directions on the package. Before draining, reserve a cup of pasta water.
    4. Stir in olives and capers. Taste and adjust the sauce for salt, pepper and sugar.
    5. Toss the cooked pasta into the sauce until well combined. If needed, you can add a little of the reserved pasta water.
    6. Serve and garnish with more parsley and freshly shredded parmesan cheese.
    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 364Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 25mgSodium 649mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 4gSugar 8gProtein 13g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      3 thoughts on “Pasta Puttanesca”

      • Hi Alpana,
        This recipe looks amazing and so easy too. As always your photos of the food are beautiful and enticing. I’ll be leaving out the anchovies but giving the recipe a try. Thanks.

        • Hi Judee, you should definitely try this recipe as written with the anchovies. They give a subtle briny taste that along with the capers and olives is what makes the dish what it is. I often use anchovy paste which blends completely.

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