spaghetti puttanesca

Spaghetti Puttanesca

It’s been a while since I craved pasta to the ferocious extent I have done over the past week. I think partly due to the Societi Bistro Tour through Italy launch party two Saturdays ago where so many delicious morsels of Italian food were tasted from their upcoming menus. But I have not been able to focus on much else food wise since. My intention was to get into my kitchen as soon as possible and make a pasta dish including some of the flavours I craved – capers, anchovies, olives and tomatoes – but life has been extraordinarily social lately, I’ve hardly been at home to eat a meal.

Spaghetti Puttanesca is exactly what I wanted, so I made a very punchy flavoured version to hit my craving buttons head on. You may want to tone it down a bit and opt for the smaller quantity of ingredients where applicable.

Another trick I’ve picked up along the way when making pasta and sauce is to always finish off the cooking of the pasta in the sauce and not in the hot water. This way it sucks up so much more of the sauce and flavour. This is how they do it in restaurants. So roughly 4 minutes before your pasta is done, and whilst it is still too al dente, drain –reserving the cooking water – and toss it in with the sauce. Add some of the cooking liquid because it is still going to need it. Finish off the cooking to al dente and serve immediately.

I love to sprinkle finely cut up fresh tomato over my Puttanesca at the end. It is not at all traditional, but I love the contrasting raw and cold with the hot and cooked ingredients. I also find the fresh tomato helps break through the saltiness of the sauce. I also never, ever buy pitted olives. I am yet to taste one that is even vaguely comparable to a whole olive. I will deal with the slightly annoying olive pip-spitting-out-situation vs. the inferior taste of a factory-pitted version and quite frankly life is too short to pit your own.

Recipe – this will give you 2 big portions

spaghetti puttanesca


  • 250g spaghetti
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 6 – 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin, peeled chopped tomatoes
  • Small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped (half for the sauce and half reserved to garnish)
  • A few basil leaves, chopped or 1T basil pesto
  • 2 – 3 T capers
  • ½ cup black olives
  • 1/2t dried chilli flakes or one fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
  • Finely chopped fresh tomato to serve (optional)


  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot with salted boiling water as per instructions.
  2. Heat he olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the garlic and anchovies. Cook briefly until the garlic just starts to turn golden and the anchovies break down. Add the tinned tomatoes, capers, olives, half the parsley and fresh basil / basil pesto and the chilli, and cook for a few minutes. If it starts thickening too quickly, add ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  3. Drain the pasta before it is down -reserving the cooking water - and mix it into the sauce, toss around, adding additional pasta water if necessary. Continue to cook for a few minutes and until the pasta is done to your liking.
  4. Scatter over the remaining parsley and dish up in bowls.
  5. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti with Puttanesca sauce

Spaghetti Puttanesca

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28 Responses to spaghetti puttanesca

  1. Matt Robinson May 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Love that you finish off cooking the pasta in the sauce, I’ve never thought of that. This looks amazing!!

  2. Sam May 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Thanks Matt, it is something I have only started doing recently and makes such a big difference to the flavour.

  3. ev @ shades of cinnamon May 19, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    This looks amazing, and just love your images. I am definitely going to have to make this.

  4. Daniela @ FoodrecipesHQ May 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Finish off the cooking of pasta in the sauce pan… this is exactly what we do in Italy! A very authentic Italian recipe, brava 🙂 🙂

  5. Laura (Tutti Dolci) May 19, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    I love puttanesca, this looks mouth watering!

  6. Usha Singh May 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Sam this looks amazingly fantastic

  7. Steph May 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Mmmm, looks tasty! What could you use in place of the anchovies?
    I have always cooked the pasta in the sauce but learned not that long ago to add some pasta water, for one because you need more for the pasta but also the starch from the pasta in the water helps combine all the flavors and attach to the pasta. Thats my understanding anyways : )

  8. Nicole May 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    This looks to die for! I have a full on carb craving now!

  9. Sam May 19, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    Hi Steph, really nothing that can replace anchovies as such. Perhpas just more capers and olives?

  10. Steph May 20, 2014 at 12:21 am #

    Thank you, I was kinda thinkin the same thing, gunna have to try it : )

  11. Ami@naivecookcooks May 20, 2014 at 5:24 am #

    This looks so good and never tried with capers! My mouth is watering!

  12. Ursula May 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Mmmmm.. another heartwarming winter pasta. My hubby is quite intolerant to anchovies and so I have substituted over the years with tuna… naturally anchovies have a unique tanginess that tuna doesn’t have, but nonetheless when marinated in brine it too, smacks of the sea and adds bulky chunks for extra texture making for that true fulfilling, richness of a putanesca… and with this wintery capetown day, just what’s called for tonight 😉 thanks for the reminder Sam!

  13. Finla May 20, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    I love this pasta and i think this is the best puttensca i have ever seen.

  14. Tandy | Lavender and Lime May 21, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    these are my favourite flavour combinations and I often make this sauce to go over fresh fish 🙂

  15. Sam May 21, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    So awesome over fish too. Yum! #cantgetenough

  16. Tammy Renea May 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    I can’t believe I’m just now finding your site, but I’m so glad I did. This recipe looks incredible!

  17. Alana Barton (@alanasterling) May 22, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Thanks for the tip of cooking the last bit of the pasta in the sauce. While I am traveling I am always looking for ways to enrich my cooking with few ingredients. I have been cooking tomatoes in garlic in the extra pasta water to spice up simple dishes, but this changes the ball game all together. Oh, I miss my kitchen!

  18. Sam May 24, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Hi Tammy – thak you and Im glad you did.
    Sam x

  19. Maureen Piper June 10, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    I just got my taste buds back what I can do that it looks so yummy and I love any thing with coffee in or out of it

  20. Sarah January 20, 2017 at 4:11 am #

    Hi! Love this recipe-it’s become a staple in our house. But it appears it has expired. Any chance you could re-post? Thanks!

  21. Sam January 20, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    HI Sarah
    Thanks for letting me know and the plugin stopped working. The recipe is up and running again now.

  22. Amie March 10, 2017 at 4:16 am #

    I made this multiple times now! It is fabulous. Sone times I use pasata instead of tinned tomatoes for a thicker sauce. Thanks so much for sharing.

  23. Sam March 10, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    Hi Amie

    Im so glad you like it and thanks for letting me know 🙂


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