Spaghetti Puttanesca

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

This Spaghetti Puttanesca is filled with the spicy, bold flavors of garlic, chili flakes, anchovies, olives, and capers. It’s an easy, classic Italian dish you’ll adore!

A Timeless Pasta Dish with Tons of Flavor

Spaghetti puttanesca is a classic recipe that everyone should know how to make! It’s so easy, so good, and comes together with basic pantry ingredients like canned tomatoes and olives. When you are out of everything and don’t feel like cooking, puttanesca might just be the answer!

Why Is It Called Spaghetti Puttanesca?

The translation of “puttanesca” actually means, “in the style of the prostitute.” Scandalous, right? Some people even think that Neapolitan prostitutes invented this recipe, and used its powerful aroma to lure in customers.

However, that seems a little bit unlikely. The Italian word “puttana,” meaning prostitute, comes from the word “putida,” meaning “stinky.” With anchovies as a key ingredient, the name “puttanesca” probably came about as a humorous reference to anchovies, rather than the cooking skills of Neapolitan “ladies of the night!”

Bowls of pasta on a table with basil leaves, salt and pepper, and other ingredients.

What Does Pasta Puttanesca Taste Like?

This dish is absolutely crammed with flavor, thanks to the blend of powerful ingredients. Olives and capers are both briny and salty. Capers also have a sort of herbal tanginess to them, while olives are rich and moist, which makes a good contrast. The anchovies dissolve into the sauce, giving it a subtly meaty, umami taste. Add a flavorful olive oil and tomato sauce with plenty of garlic, and this easy pasta dish is totally irresistible.

The ingredients for spaghetti puttanesca, measured and arranged on a work surface.

Recipe Ingredients

Feeling hungry yet? Great! This is what you’ll need to gather up in order to make spaghetti puttanesca.

  • Pasta: Dry spaghetti noodles. Thin spaghetti would also work, just be careful not to overcook it!
  • Olive Oil: For sautéing.
  • Onion and Garlic: Chop the onion and mince the garlic.
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: Use the amount that suits your taste, or leave it out, if you prefer.
  • Anchovies: Finely chopped anchovies are a key ingredient in this classic pasta dish. Look for a good canned variety packed in water or oil.
  • Olives: I use chopped black olives.
  • Capers: Another key ingredient, capers are usually found near the olives and pickles.
  • Diced Tomatoes: Use your favorite canned, diced tomatoes.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pecorino Romano: Use finely-grated pecorino romano, or parmesan.
  • Parsley: Chopped, fresh parsley.
  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves, for garnish. This is optional, but great!
Swirling pasta around a fork.

How to Make Spaghetti Puttanesca

Quick and easy is the name of the game here. We’re talking boil the pasta, dump everything else in a skillet, and that’s about it! Here’s the skinny:

  • Cook the Spaghetti. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the package says. (It will finish cooking in the sauce.) Then drain it, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water.
  • Saute the Aromatics. While the spaghetti is boiling, heat the olive oil in a skillet, and cook the onion, garlic, and chili flakes for about four minutes.
  • Add the Anchovies, Olives, and Capers. Stir in the anchovies, olives, and capers, and let those cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Finish the Sauce. Add the tomatoes, and simmer the sauce for about four minutes. Then stir in the pecorino romano.
  • Toss the Pasta in the Sauce. Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce. Toss to coat. If it needs a little more liquid, add a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water, and cook for another 3 minutes or so.
  • Enjoy!  Serve the spaghetti puttanesca in bowls, garnished with parsley and basil.

Helpful Tips

If you’ve never made spaghetti puttanesca, you might have some questions about the process and ingredients. These helpful tips will tell you all you need to know!

  • Anchovies: Can you taste the anchovies? When you cook with anchovies, they don’t taste fishy. They just add a nice salty flavor to the dish, and lots of umami.
  • Anchovy Substitutes: For an anchovy-less version, you can replace the anchovies with a little bit of tamari sauce, seaweed, or finely chopped artichoke hearts.
  • Pasta: You will want to undercook the pasta by 2 minutes. It will cook till tender in the sauce. 
  • Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are a great option, if you can find them. They’re known for being less acidic than other canned varieties.
Close-up shot of cooked spaghetti in sauce.

Tasty Serving Suggestions

So what should you serve with spaghetti puttanesca? These easy recipes are the perfect sides to round out the menu.

Lifting a forkful of pasta out of a bowl.

Storing and Reheating Guidelines

If you have leftover pasta puttanesca, you can store it in your refrigerator for up to three days. To keep it as fresh as possible, store it in zip-top bags or airtight containers. You can reheat this dish on the stove over medium heat, just until the ingredients are warmed through.

Bowls of pasta garnished with herbs and grated cheese.

Can I Freeze Pasta Puttanesca?

Yes, you can! Just cool It down, transfer it into freezer containers, and then freeze it for up to three months. Thaw it out overnight in the fridge before reheating.

A bowl of Spaghetti Puttanesca with freshly shredded Parmesan on top and a fork tucked into the side of the bowl.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Recipe
Yield: 4 Servings

Spaghetti Puttanesca

This easy Spaghetti Puttanesca is filled with the spicy, bold flavors of garlic, chili flakes, anchovies, olives, and capers. It’s a simple classic dish you'll adore!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 anchovy filets, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped black olives
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 oz finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • Basil leaves, for garnish, optional

Instructions 

  • Cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the package says.
  • While the spaghetti cooks, heat the olive oil over medium-low and cook the onion, garlic, and chili flakes for 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the anchovies, olives, capers and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer for 4 minutes, then stir in the grated cheese.
  • Drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce and toss to coat. If needed, add a couple of tablespoons of the hot spaghetti water and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Serve bowls of the spaghetti with more grated cheese, parsley and basil, if desired.

Notes

  • Anchovies: Can you taste the anchovies?  When you cook with anchovies, they don’t taste fishy. They just add a nice salty flavor to the dish, and lots of umami.
  • Anchovy Substitutes: For an anchovy-less version, you can replace the anchovies with a little bit of tamari sauce, seaweed, or finely chopped artichoke hearts.
  • Pasta: You will want to undercook the pasta by 2 minutes. It will cook till tender in the sauce. 
  • Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes are a great option, if you can find them. They're known for being less acidic than other canned varieties.
  • Storing: If you have leftover pasta puttanesca, you can store it in your refrigerator for up to three days. To keep it as fresh as possible, store it in zip-top bags or airtight containers.
  • Reheating: You can reheat this dish on the stove over medium heat, just until the ingredients are warmed through
  • Nutrition

    Serving: 1, Calories: 337kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 32mg, Sodium: 694mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g

    Categories:

    More Classic Pasta Dishes

    Post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

    Related Posts

    Comments

    We LOVE hearing from you! Submit your question or comment here and don’t forget to leave a rating! Click the icon below to upload a pic of your creation!

    Recipe Rating:




    0 Comments
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments

    Thank You For Being Here!

    Jessica
    For the past 15 years, Jorge & Jessica have loved getting to share their families' favorite recipes with all of you. They live in Florida with their 3 kids.