How To Make Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

Originally from Naples, Spaghetti alla Puttanesca are actually eaten throughout Italy and they are so easy to make that I thought I’d share the recipe with you. This is the kind of recipe you will always have ingredients for – it literally calls for anchovies, capers and olives. It’s super flavorful, budget friendly and so quick to make (the sauce literally cooks in the same amount of time you need to boil the pasta) that it is the perfect recipe for an impromptu dinner with friends.

Care to discover how they are made? Just follow my recipe.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca Quick Facts

Why are they called puttanesca?

There is no certainty as to the origins of the name Puttanesca. The name quite literally means “in the style of prostitutes” and it is said that the dish was invented in the brothels of Naples to entice potential customers to walk in.

Another story says that back in the 1950s, just about at closing time, some customers entered a restaurant and when the owner didn’t know what to offer them, having very few ingredients left in his kitchen, they suggested “facci una puttanata qualsiasi” (you can surely make out where the word comes from!) – literally “make any kind of garbage.” The chef threw together the few ingredients he had left and voilà, the dish was apparently invented.

More likely, the dish was invented by women who were so busy that they had to put together lunch in a hurry and the term puttanesca simply points out that the dish was literally improvised with whatever ingredients available.

What kind of olives should I use?

You can use any kind of olives for this sauce. Some people prefer the mild taste of black olives. I am a fan of Gaeta olives, which have a fuller, more savory taste. I recommend using those if you want a stronger, full-bodied flavor. Can’t find them? Opt for kalamata olives instead.

Can I add olives in the cooking sauce?

You definitely can, if you want. In this case, if you like the extra flavor, make sure to chop them finely before tossing them into the cooking sauce.

The sauce is a bit sour. What can I do?

Here’s a trick my mom taught me: whenever your tomato sauce is a bit sour, just add a teaspoon of sugar!

Can I add fresh basil?

You may, if you like.

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead?

You definitely can! When tomatoes are in season, you can definitely use those instead. I recommend baby plum tomatoes for extra flavor.

Can I sprinkle the pasta with parmesan cheese?

Not really! Parmesan cheese has a very strong flavor that would cover the delicate one of the anchovies and capers in the sauce, so I really do not recommend that.

Can I store spaghetti alla puttanesca?

Honestly, this sauce is so easy to make that this is a dish you should serve immediately. If you have leftovers, place them in a sealed container and in the fridge, but eat them within a day. Don’t expect your pasta to remain al dente! Freezing is not recommended.

Yield: 2

How To Make Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

An easy to follow recipe to prepare spaghetti alla puttanesca at home.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes


  • 6.5 ounces (180 grams) top quality spaghetti
  • 2 cups (400 grams) peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 ounce (15 grams) anchovies in oil
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salted capers
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) olives
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cayenne pepper
  • Salt for the pasta
  • Parsley and black pepper to taste


spaghetti alla puttanesca


Wash the capers and chop them finely. Chop the anchovies. Start boiling water for the pasta in a large pot.

anchovies and capers


Crush the peeled plum tomatoes with a fork.



Place the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, anchovies and cayenne pepper in a non-stick pan and fry lightly; then add the capers.

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After a few minutes, add the crushed tomatoes to the sauce. Do not add salt.

spaghetti alla puttanesca


As soon as the water boils, add salt and start cooking the spaghetti, stirring occasionally. Drain it one minute before full cooking time and immediately toss it to the sauce. Sauté the pasta in the pan adding the olives and a bit of cooking water if necessary.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


Serve your spaghetti alla puttanesca hot. You may add some chopped parsley and black pepper to taste.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 419Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 3.2gTrans Fat: 0.1gUnsaturated Fat: 21.7gCholesterol: 6.4mgSodium: 575mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 4.8gSugar: 6.4gProtein: 9.3g

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