Pasta Puttanesca

This pasta puttanesca, made with tomatoes, anchovies, olives, and penne is edgy, spicy, and sassy, just like the women it’s named after.

White bowl with ziti and a pasta puttanesca sauce

“Whore’s pasta.” Was ever a name so perfectly suited to a dish? This is edgy, spicy, and just the right side of wrong, conjuring up visions of Neapolitan streets and dangerous women in tight dresses.–Sophie Dahl

Video: How to Make Pasta Puttanesca
Video courtesy of CT Style

Pasta Puttanesca

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 5 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights cookbook

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In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile and sweat. (No, not you, she means to cook the garlic and chile over moderately lowish heat so they slowly, slowly throw off their moisture).

Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and then take it down to low heat.

Pull out a pestle and mortar and mash the anchovies with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a paste.

Add the paste to the simmering sauce and carry on with the simmering for about 20 minutes more. The sauce should smell musky and heady.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta as directed on the box until it is al dente and drain.

You could add 1 teaspoon brown sugar to the sauce here, although taste it first and then decide whether you’d like to add it or not. Add the olives to the sauce, spoon it over the pasta, scatter with a big handful of parsley, and pretend you’re in a crowded trattoria in a winding alleyway in Naples. Originally published February 8, 2012.

Print RecipeBuy the Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    An Even Quicker Pasta Puttanesca Variation

    • When time constraints scream for takeout, consider tossing together this weeknight-friendly pasta instead. The truly impatient should note that this quick recipe can be made even more quickly by relying on a pinch of red pepper flakes rather than a tediously chopped fresh chile and a smidgen of anchovy paste from a tube rather than the slippery real deal.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    So easy and fast! It took longer for the water to boil than it did to throw together this sauce.

    This is one of those dishes where you won’t taste the anchovies because they just meld into the sauce, but you also definitely don’t want to leave them out. I threw in chopped basil since it’s what we have growing. The whole thing was garlicky, salty, and spicy enough to make us happy.

    This pasta puttanesca is a keeper. It’s easy and flavorful. I added capers to mine because, well, I like it voluptuous…


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    1. One of my favorite easy-quick recipes, and glad that you mentioned using oil-cured olives.
      But—what’s with the garlic?? Waaaay too much.

        1. Thank you for your reply! Yes, it’s perfect otherwise, and I make it sometimes. In our family though, we use garlic sparingly, not as a vegetable. I realize that 4-6 cloves is what many recipes call for. Musta been pretty awful for those legendary Italian customers.
          You do a really fine job in your blog.

          1. Thank you, AmericaBeautiful. I guess being Portuguese, I can’t resist garlic! There something called refogado, which is a mixture of slowly sautéed onions and garlic, which is then used as a base for just about everything. So many recipe begin with, “Faz um refogado…” Make a refogado.

    2. I had a good giggle when reading about how to sweat the garlic. As a transplanted Yank to England about 8 years ago, I had to learn an entirely, new vocabulary if I wanted to cook here. Things here are sweated, not sauteed and that’s just the beginning! This recipe is a fine one. Ms. Dahl (now Mrs. Jamie Cullum) had a very good TV show here awhile back. I, too, add capers and we use Gran Padano as a finishing touch. I like it so much better than the old parmesan cheese of olde.

    3. I love pasta recipes – so easy to make and delicious. And your picture just makes me want to gobble it all up right now. I always use San Marzano tomatoes, they are the best!

      1. Daniel, it’s not a cop out, but I’d add to taste. Each brand of paste is a bit different, some are saltier, some are oilier, etc. I’d add the paste a bit at a time until it’s perfection.

    4. Too funny Marcella and so very right. I love this recipe and have tried it also with tuna instead of the anchovies and kids LOVE IT. Also another thing I often do with anchovies as some may find it too strong of a taste, I leave them in milk for a few hours then pat dry them and it softens its taste.

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