Project Description

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

This is the pasta sauce with a risque past. It's perfect for "work" nights and if you've read the accompanying blog, you'll get the saucy play on words. It will be done cooking in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta to al dente. Use the best ingredients you can afford and they will shine. Traditionally Gaeta olives are used, but you can substitute another high quality olive. I often use a Mediterranean mix and always remove the pits myself versus buying already pitted olives. You can even use good jarred olives from your pantry! Pro tip: Kalamata olives (which I like) do not work in this recipe.

If you're hesitant to try this combination of very flavor-forward ingredients, know that you can adjust the quantities to your liking without upsetting the recipe. I don't skimp on anything though, except the additional salt. You won't need much if any. The briny, salty anchovies, capers and olives will be enough. These flavors are outrageous and the aroma alone will entice you to the table. One whiff and you'll be inclined to believe the folklore surrounding this dish.

Prep time is about 20 minutes depending on your olive pitting speed. The rest of the prep is super easy and quick. This recipe only serves two hungry people, with no leftovers. Try not to judge.


  • 1/2 lb spaghetti
  • Olive oil to generously coat your sauce pan
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 3/4 cup of olives, pitted
  • 3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
  • 4-6 anchovies
  • 14 ounces of peeled tomatoes, chopped either by hand or lightly in a food processor
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper, more to taste (I use more!)


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then drop spaghetti in and turn with tongs or a wooden spoon
  • Meanwhile in a sauce pot (I use 4 quart, cast iron enamel), add enough olive oil to generously coat the surface.
  • Saute the garlic in olive oil over low heat for about 5-7 minutes or until it becomes golden then discard the garlic (do not allow garlic to burn)
  • Add the anchovies and bay leaf and saute over low heat, maintaining a low sizzle for about 5 minutes or until the anchovies have melted into the oil
  • Then add hot pepper flakes, capers and olives and stir to combine all the ingredients for about a minute
  • Add the tomatoes stirring to combine ingredients and raise the heat to bring to a low, steady simmer
  • Add salt sparingly and to your taste keeping in mind the ingredients are already salty (taste sauce to be sure)
  • When the pasta is cooked to almost al dente (about a minute less than the directions on the box), reserve about a cup of pasta water, drain the spaghetti and add to the puttanesca sauce; stir carefully over low heat to incorporate the sauce into the spaghetti
  • Add some pasta water as needed to bring your sauce together and stir; then continue to cook about a minute
  • Remove from heat
  • Serve immediately - pasta waits for no one!

*Al dente means to the tooth and describes the chewy bite of the pasta.