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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla PuttanescaSpaghetti alla Puttanesca means “Spaghetti the way a whore would make it”. Legend has it that back in the 1950′s, Italy was rife with legal brothels. To prevent squabbles between the housewives and hos (obviously this was before reality TV), the prostitutes were only allowed to shop at local markets once a week, and so whatever they bought had to last. People cook it today because it has a remarkable flavor, is easy to make, and is made of ingredients easily kept on hand.

If you don’t like anchovies, don’t worry. They break down in the sauce and you won’t even know they are there. They just add a nice salty flavour without any fishiness.

Traditionally, the puttanesca sauce is served with spaghetti, although it also goes well with penne, bucatini and linguine.

Open up a bottle of red homemade wine and enjoy!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 Anchovy Fillets ( the ones packed in oil not salt), chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp small chopped rinsed capers
  • 3/4 cup pitted olives (black or green), roughly chopped
  • Basil leaves chopped, to garnish
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil for drizzling


  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep saute pan. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they’re soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, stir in the chopped anchovies along with some of the oil from the can. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Mix in the tomato paste and cook it for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crushed tomatoes, chili pepper flakes, and olives. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted (about 1 Tbsp or to taste) water to a boil. When you add the spaghetti to the boiling water to cook, add the capers to the sauce and continue to simmer it gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, to al dente, cooked but still slightly firm.
  4. Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta and mix to combine. Add a ladle of sauce to the pasta and mix to combine. Serve in shallow pasta bowls with more sauce on top. Garnish with basil.


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