Sunday, January 06, 2008

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Sunday mid-day meal is often an indulgence of cooked food. While whole and unprocessed, it does have a tendency to be a bit high in the carb department, often with a generous helping of dairy in the form of cheese or sour cream.

Today's treat is a version of the popular peasant food reputed to have originated in Naples, pasta with puttanesca sauce. Roughly translated: "in the style of the whore". The Italian word for whore being puttana.

Legend has it that it was a quick, easy meal for the 'ladies of the evening' to prepare in between customers. Another school of thought suggests the name was derived from the Latin word, putida "stinking", as the strong aroma of the sauce would attract men from the street.

The original version includes anchovies. I often skip the anchovies, relying solely on good quality olive oil, flavorful tomatoes, with kalamata olives and capers ensuring a depth of flavor that is rich and pleasing even without the signature ingredient.

This is a very simple sauce, made quickly while the pasta cooks, using pantry ingredients.

Make it a few times and you'll come to rely on it for a quick meal served over pasta or as a full flavored accompaniment for a mild fish fillet or chicken breast. It will be equally impressive in the dining room for company.

The sauce is a thoughtful gift item, too. Bottled up in a quart canning jar, tied with a big ribbon, nestled in an attractive little basket along with a loaf of crunchy, peasant bread or a bottle of red wine, it makes a unique birthday, thank you or hostess gift.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil (or fire-roasted crushed tomatoes)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
3 anchovy fillets (if using)
1-1/2 TBS drained capers
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

3/4 pound thin spaghetti
Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add tomatoes, olives, anchovies(if using), capers, oregano and crushed red pepper. Simmer sauce over medium heat until thickened, breaking up the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While sauce cooks, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al denté. Drain and return to pot, add sauce, toss to coat. Serve with grated cheese.


shannon said...

Hi Joyce,

My name is Shannon and I'm the editorial assistant at I am very impressed with the quality of your posts and to that end, I’d like to invite you to be a part of our newly launched Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at

And who would have thought that when I was eating puttanesca I was eating 'whore pasta?' Watch out, Jeopardy! =)


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant,

Mansi Desai said...

I make this simple sauce almost alays for my pasta:) but I like the alfredo better, though its high in calories!

Kristen's Raw said...

Just stopping by to say HI!

Have a lovely day :)
Kristen's Raw