Pasta Putanesca

Puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta sauces. It was originated, I am told by my Napolitan friend Raffaele, in the streets of Napoli where the ladies of the night cooked it in the streets whilst waiting for the next customer. (Hence the name)

I think it is a perfect dinner to prepare when you have not been shopping and want to eat quickly as most ingredients live in the back of the cupboard.

Cooking time: 20 minutes
Quantity: This mix serves 4


1. I recommend that you taste capers prior to cooking with them. They have a very special flavour that is not to everyone’s taste. However, this recipe has them and so I stay true to it, in paper at least, as not-so-secretly, I don’t use them.

2. Always buy chopped tomatoes. That is, if you don’t live in a sunny place along the Mediterranean. I have tried to buy whole tomatoes in a tin and chop them and it did not work. Also, try to buy good quality ones if you can. As usual, not so many ingredients so quality is important.

3. The puttanesca should be eaten with spaghetti. But I like how it tastes with casarecci, as shown in the image. Another tip when buying pasta is to buy “bronze die” as the quality is nicer. (Again, Raffaele explained to me that the pasta will keep shape better)


400 gr of spaghetti
4 spoons of olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic very finely chopped
50gr gr of anchovies preserved in olive oil finely chopped
1 fresh chilli pepper (or to taste)
100 gr of black olives (pitted and chopped in very small pieces)
1 table spoon of chopped capers (I don’t use them)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400gr)
2 table spoons of parsley Maldon salt

Cooking Instructions:

Place the oil, the garlic, anchovies and chilli in a pan and heat in medium heat until golden. The anchovies will melt.

Make sure that you turn them regularly to avoid any ingredient to be overcooked. Then add the chopped olives and capers and sauté for a couple of minutes. You will notice the olives changing texture to a softer one.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 15 minute. Taste, adjust salt if required (although the anchovies are rather salty) and add the parsley.

Cook for further two minutes.

For the pasta, I would recommend that you check the pack’s instructions. There are some general rules about salting the waters, using roughly 100gr of pasta per person etc.. but truthfully, when it comes to the timing: every pasta is different, as so is every taste.

The Spanish translation was first published in my blog Historias de una cocina londinense on the 22nd June 2013

Puttanesca es una de mis pastas favoritas. Se originó en los barrios de Nápoles (me lo ha contado un amigo), donde las señoras de la noche cocinaban en las calles mientras esperaban a sus clientes… De ahi el nombre!

Bajo mi punto de vista, es el plato de emergencia perfecto cuando no he ido de compras durante varios días ya que los ingredientes “viven” permanentemente en los armarios de mi cocina. Por cierto, esta es la receta “autentica” con ingredientes tradicionales pero os habréis dado cuenta que en las notas he hecho varias confesiones a cerca de la pasta y las alcaparras.

Author: Cristina Lanz Azcarate
Recipe type: Plato principal
Cuisine: Italiano
Serves: 4
Un plato tradicional perfecto en caso de emergencia.
  • 400 gr de spaghetti
  • 4 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
  • 3 ajos grandes cortados en trocitos.
  • 50gr de anchoas en aceite cortadas en trocitos
  • 1 chilli de los pequeñitos (birds eye) sin semillas o alternativamente 1 cayena seca
  • 1 lata de tomates troceados (400gr)
  • 100 gr de aceitunas negras deshuesadas cortadas en trocitos
  • 1 cucharada de alcaparras (o no)
  • 2 cucharadas de perejil picado
  1. Hervir la pasta en paralelo a la preparación de la salsa. (Consultad las notas)
  2. Para la salsa, en una sartén grande, calentar el aceite con el ajo, anchoas, y chilli a fuego medio hasta que las anchoas se disuelvan. Mover con una cuchara de palo, evitar que se quemen los ingredientes.
  3. Añadir las aceitunas y las alcaparras y saltear durante un par de minutos. En este proceso, el indicador sera que las aceitunas se hayan ablandando.
  4. Añadir los tomates troceados y cocinar durante 10/15 minutos. Tomad como referencia la densidad de la salsa. Si veis que el agua se ha evaporado y os quedais con la pulpa (e ingredientes), ha llegado el momento de continuar. Como siempre, mirad la sartén mas que es reloj.
  5. Añadir el perejil y cocinar un par de minutos mas para terminar el plato.
  6. Mezclar la pasta y la salsa y servir inmediatamente. No re-calenteis.

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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