I love words that are euphonious! Puttanesca is certainly one of those words. This was the scandalous pasta of its time with its sauce name! This isn’t an old Italian recipe, it’s relatively new. The earliest account of sugo alla puttanesca was credited to Sandro Petti in the 1950s. As the story goes some hangry friends showed up near closing time and when he advised them he was low on ingredients, they replied “facci una puttanata qualsiasi” – translation, “make any kind of garbage”. In this context, the word puttanata refers to something worthless, but puttana also has a different meaning – a woman of ill repute! He whipped up the sugo alla puttanesca with a few tomatoes, olives and capers. It was such a hit, he added it to his menu and the rest is history!
Many recipes call for whole tomatoes in sauce, but I opted for a lighter version with fresh cherry tomatoes and added other ingredients I love. My take on sugo alla puttanesca is as tasty and flavorful as the original. I hope you agree.
Have everything chopped and ready to go. Once you start cooking, you just dump everything in the skillet and let the flavors marry!
Bring a pot of water to a boil. When it’s boiling, add a good pinch of Kosher salt and some olive oil. Stir the water, add the pasta and stir again until all the pasta is submerged and not clumped together.
In a large, wide skillet, add about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil. (I just drizzle the oil in a circled about 5 times in the pan. An easy step to cut down on the clean-up.) Add the sliced shallots and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic, anchovy paste and Italian seasoning. Stir and cook until well blended throughout the oil. Add the cherry tomatoes, roasted red pepper strips, Kalamata olives, grilled artichoke hearts and capers. Stir and cook, continuously combining all the ingredients. Add about two Tablespoons of the basil paste into the pan (I just squeeze the paste out and eyeball the measurement), fresh ground black pepper and a two-finger pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Note: I didn’t add salt since many of the ingredients are preserved in brine liquid and the Parmesan cheese is salty. If you wish to add salt, do so sparingly. Remember you can always add, but you can’t take out.
Using a pasta ladle, pull the pasta out of the pot, allowing most of the pasta water to drain, and add it to the skillet. When you’ve added all the pasta, add the fresh basil and parsley. Toss and coat over medium heat. Now is the time to taste and reseason, if necessary. The pasta should be flavorful and all the pasta strands should be coated in the olive oil sauce. Grate some Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Transfer to the serving bowl, add extra cheese and garnish with basil.
This sauce is so delicious! The cherry tomatoes burst and release the perfect amount of liquid, helping to create this amazing light sauce. Don’t be hesitant to add the anchovy paste! It disappears in the sauce and only adds an amazing layer of flavor. It doesn’t leave a fishy flavor. I mean, if I didn’t tell you it had anchovies, you couldn’t tell!
Another version – add some tuna to the sauce, or grilled shrimp! Since I served the pasta with Baked Salmon in Lemon Caper Butter, I did not add capers to the pasta. No matter how you serve it, your family and guests will be satisfied. This makes for a great vegetarian dish and it even tastes better the next day! This is a great pasta to pack for a picnic in little Chinese take out containers!
Pasta alla Puttanesca
This hearty pasta dish has an amazing flavor profile and aroma. Simple, elegant and a crowd pleaser. Most ingredients can be found in your pantry, making this easy to make.
- 1 lb linguine, spaghetti or other pasta of your choice
- water, pinch of salt and a little oil for the pasta
- ⅓ cup olive oil, plus extra as needed (extra virgin, first cold press)
- 1 cup shallots, thinly sliced (or a medium yellow onion)
- 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled & grated or mashed in a mortar and pestle
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
- 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and drained
- 1 cup grilled artichoke hearts, drained
- 2 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed under water
- 2 Tablespoons basil paste
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- fresh ground black pepper
- fresh basil, cut into ribbons
- 2 Tablespoons parsley, fine chop
- Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
Bring a pot full of water to a boil over medium to high heat. Add salt and olive oil. Stir and add pasta. Stir again until all the pasta is submerged and not clumping. Cook according to package instructions or desired doneness.
In a wide, large skillet over medium heat, add about ⅓ cup of good extra virgin olive oil and cook the shallots until translucent. Add the grated garlic, anchovy paste, Italian seasoning and stir to combine. Add the cherry tomatoes, roasted red pepper strips, Kalamata olives, grilled artichoke hearts and capers. Stir and cook, continuously combining all the ingredients for a minute or so. Add the basil paste, fresh ground black pepper and a two-finger pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Using a pasta ladle, pull the pasta out of the pot, allowing most of the pasta water to drain, and add it to the skillet. When you've added all the pasta, add the fresh basil and parsley. Toss and coat over medium heat. Now is the time to taste and reseason, if necessary. The pasta should be flavorful and all the pasta strands should be coated in the olive oil sauce.
Grate some Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Transfer to the serving bowl, add extra cheese and garnish with basil.