Pasta Puttanesca

I recently looked at my recipe index for pasta ideas, because a girlfriend was visiting. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, served with a salad. A perfect meal.

Creamy and cheesy pasta always comes to mind. But of course pasta with various types of red sauces, raw or cooked then pop into my brain… and I began dreaming of pasta puttanesca. It’s not something I can make for my husband because he is not fond of olives and capers… but my girlfriend is.

So, I looked up my own blog post for pasta puttanesca, because I knew I’d made it early on in my blog, and it was missing! All I had were these photos.

The “finished” pasta photos don’t look horrible, which many photos of mine did in the “early” days (2012-2014…) but for some reason the post had disappeared. And this pasta is my favorite pasta if you had a gun to my head.

Well, I got to make it again! And my girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.

The recipe I used is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Kitchen,” – the story of her love affair with the kitchen.

Quote from Lady Nigella regarding pasta puttanesca: “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore’s pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

I really wish I could talk and write like Ms. Lawson.

Pasta Puttanesca
Aka whore’s pasta
Printable recipe below
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons strong extra-virgin olive oil, like Hojasanta
8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cayenne chile pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti (I used linguine)
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost “melted”, then add the garlic and cayenne flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.

This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to package instructions.

Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the garlic-anchovy mixture, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your wok or pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce. (I don’t do this step.)

Scatter with chopped parsley, if there’s some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

What’s slatternly? No idea.

I served the pasta with a pinot noir. It was perfect.



60 thoughts on “Pasta Puttanesca

  • I have been making my own spaghetti lately from scratch and this recipe would be a perfect excuse to use my pasta making machine! ‘Whore’s Pasta’? That certainly is a very racy name. Maybe I should wear my special fish net stockings while I make this pasta!

    • Oh goodness yes! You hadn’t heard that about puttanesca? Funny history behind this dish. Maybe it would be even better if you wear those stockings… and red patent leather heels of course.

  • Fabulous pasta sauce which I use with chicken and other meats but no pasta.
    Very versatile sauce (those ladies of the night knew a thing or two) – plop eggs into it and you have a super Shakshuka type dish.
    Pasta unfortunately is out – you know: carbs!! 😳

    • I know. I have to watch them as well. But you’re right – on its own it’s just a fabulous sauce! Shrimp would be excellent, too!

  • Chef Mimi, how awful to discover the loss that recipe in your blog archives (where DO they go anyway?), but yay for recreating your favorite dish to enjoy again with a friend. Your photos past and present look fantastic! Lucky for me I love olives and capers and planned to make lasagna for my hubby’s supper tonight. (Guess you know what I’ll be eating with GF pasta — YUM!) Too funny about Nigella’s “definition” — and yours — but don’t discredit your own wonderful way with words. I enjoy reading your posts and cooking your recipes! Slatternly? :) Love it!

    • I still haven’t looked up slatternly. I know I’d never use it! But jeez I love Nigella. I’m so lucky my girlfriend loves olives and capers, and many other foods. She stays the night quite often and I can make a dinner for us instead of just with my husband’s criteria!

  • Well, I am very “fond” of olives and capers, so I’m definitely sure I would love this recipe. And btw, your photos really do look quite yummy! Thanks for sharing.

  • I can’t imagine cramming any more flavor into a pasta dish! Wow! I think anything with olives is just a tad superior, so this tempts me greatly! :-)

    • If you’ve never had it, to try it. The Kalamata olives, capers, cayenne, good canned tomatoes… it’s out of this world!

  • well i love capers and olives but – and you will think I’m odd – i really don’t like pasta much and i can’t bear tomato sauces! yes i know, i’m freaky:-) I’m sure your dish is wonderful, but please don’t make eat it….

    • Don’t worry. I do not force food of any kind on anyone! My mother, on the other hand… She takes it personally that my husband doesn’t like mayonnaise, so every time we visit she’s snuck it into something and feels very smug. 🙄

  • The vagaries of websites… There’s a problem with mine right now. I’m ignoring it and hoping it fixes itself! Pasta Puttanesca, however, is impossible ignore! GREG

    • Oh poo, I’m sorry. I probably am totally responsible for what happened to my recipe, however. I have delete disease. But you’re right about puttanesca. Never ignore!

    • So you do?!!! I haven’t even looked it up, because it doesn’t seem like a word I’d use! I get a daily vocabulary word emailed to me, something that just started showing up one day, and I have to ignore most of those words just for that same reason! I think my brain is just full.

  • Super delicious! I love puttanesca sauce as I love the combination of tomatoes, olives and capers 😉 I used to watch Nigella cooking, was not bad 😉
    I’m hungry now just looking at your pictures 😉
    I guess your friend did appreciated it a lot 😋😋

    • Yes, this girlfriend sometimes comes once a week and she like pretty much everything that I like (not liver!) so it’s fun to cook for her!

  • I only have one Nigella cookbook in my house, “Nigella Express” Mimi. Lynne forbids me to have any more of her cookbooks. Apparently she doesn’t trust whether I’m looking at the recipes or Nigella. Ha ha ha! It’s the recipes of course. Ahem. So I love this dish. And not just because you recreated it from that cookbook but because its the best! Can I come over and stay too and have some? :-)

    • Hahahahahaha! I kind of understand. I think my husband had a thing for Giada, so I only have one cookbook of hers. You and Lynne have an open invitation to my house and dining room!

    • I think the cayenne is a must! It add another layer of flavor and spice! Of course, I love all things spicy.

    • Hope you can find your ancient post ! 😬 I’ve always loved trying new recipes for dishes I love, like Bolognese, but it seems like in the case of Puttanesca, I stick with Nigella’s.

    • Would your son eat this? Of course, I say that, and my 2 year old grandson loves pickles, olives, really anything pickled. They had a Bloody Mary bar going a while back for company and Henry tried to eat all of the goodies. Maybe I should make him Puttanesca!

  • Nigella’s Puttanesca recipe is our go-to Puttanesca and a favorite pasta dish around our table. It has so much flavor with so little effort.

    • Oh that’s interesting. Some people are surprised there are capers in this recipe, but it’s so good I’ll never make another! Definitely so much flavor and little effort.

  • Pasta Puttanesca is my all time favorite! I haven’t tried this one, but it looks/sounds divine. I had a close friend in college who made Puttanesca for every dinner she hosted, and I loved it every time. :-) ~Valentina

    • Your friend had good taste! Although a small culinary repertoire, but not bad for someone college in any case! It’s just so tasty. Once I used this recipe, I haven’t tried another. It’s perfect.

  • DELICIOUS!!!! Definitely an all-time favorite pasta classic of mine as well! Nigella certainly has a way with words, I LOVE the quote you included! And you are so right, often with pasta we think of creamy, cheesy sauces (which are also fabulous of course!), but pasta puttanesca is a great reminder of the delicious pasta sauces that don’t have a cream or cheese base.

    • A little lighter, a little healthier, depending on how much you eat! I have an problem respecting portion size with great pasta dishes!

  • I love a good puttanesca, Mimi! And from Nigella? I’m all in! Like you, I wish I could write and speak the way she does. It’s so sensual in every way! I want to be her when I grow up.☺️😉

    • I know what you mean! A bit too late for me to be Nigella. She’s incredible, though. And she’s been through so much in her life.

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