Total Time: 20minutes

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a popular dish especially in Rome, Naples and their regions- Lazio and Campania’ but served all over Italy.

The dish looks like an improvised emergency recipe assembled with easily stored ingredients: anchovies, olives, tomatoes, all from cans. As usual the ingenuity of the creator put together a respectable dish notwithstanding the name. “Puttana” means whore in Italian, hence puttanesca.

The origin of the dish is a guess. One story goes that the ladies of the evening sometimes missed dinner as they were busy. When they could find time, restaurants were closing or already closed. To accommodate them this easy dish that required little expertise and time was put together. Another story suggests that the dish was served in Naples on the premises where the ladies performed their services for the convenience of patrons.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a spicy, rugged sauce meant rather to satisfy a good appetite and engage the senses.


Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 filets of anchovy chopped
  • hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of black pitted olives sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 6 San Marzano tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt



Warm oil in a deep pan large enough to toss spaghetti later. At low heat, stir in chopped garlic, hot pepper anchovies and dissolve using a wooden spoon. Careful not to burn garlic.

Then add capers and olives. Stir and let flavor all.

Add tomatoes, salt and some parsley and cook for about 10 minutes.

Pour cooked spaghetti into pan, add rest of the parsley and mix. Turn heat off and serve.


Note: Put tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds for easy skin removal and remove seeds. You can substitute with 8 ounces canned tomatoes. Chop anchovies ahead so they’ll dissolve easier. The Italian parsley, flat leaves, is recommended as it is more flavorful. You can add 3 or 4 olives with pit for more flavor, especially if you use the pitted kind in a can. Careful with salt as anchovies are salty. No cheese with this sauce.

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