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

Pasta Puttanesca

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

Prep 5 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 30 mins
4 servings
571 kcal
5 / 2 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights cookbook

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  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh red chile seeded and chopped
  • Two (14 1/2-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 cup black olives pitted and chopped if desired
  • 12 to 16 ounces penne preferably spelt pasta (spelt has a lovely light texture and nutty flavor, not to mention a healthful wholesomeness)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons chopped basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves


  • 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.
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.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 571kcal (29%)Carbohydrates: 67g (22%)Protein: 13g (26%)Fat: 28g (43%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 5mg (2%)Sodium: 541mg (24%)Potassium: 284mg (8%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 328IU (7%)Vitamin C: 18mg (22%)Calcium: 54mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

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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…

I can’t believe how fast this pasta puttanesca was to make and how good the results were. My husband and I both liked this and it will be part of my repertoire of weeknight recipes. I used a chile pepper, anchovies (as opposed to paste), and basil (not parsley), and didn’t add the brown sugar. I’m a deep down, true blue pasta lover and was quite impressed with spelt pasta, which I hadn’t tried before. It’s better than whole-wheat pasta (yuck!).

Originally published February 27, 2020



  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. hmmm… I feel it quite unnecessary to use a mortar and pestle for the anchovies. Just throw them in the hot skillet before adding the tomatoes: the sheer warmth from the oil will help dissolve them in no time. Mash them a little with your spoon, then add the tomatoes, and on you go – I don’t like to use mortar and pestle, mainly because my pestle is made of wood and it would be a pain to make the fishy smell go away 🙂

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