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Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca Recipe: Authentic Italian Pasta

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe, with its distinct flavors and simple preparation, is a pasta you will have to try once in a lifetime.

And I am sure you will not regret it and it will become one of your favorite dishes!

spaghetti alla puttanesca with cheese


Why I love This Italian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe So Much

Flavors: The salty capers and olives are perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the tomatoes, creating a complex and comforting symphony of flavors. 

Minimum preparation time: It can be prepared in less than 30 minutes with simple and pantry staple ingredients.

This recipe is perfect for busy weeknights when I still want to bring a delicious pasta dish to the table. 

spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe

Why is it called spaghetti alla puttanesca?

Spaghetti puttanesca is a dish that has been around for a long time.

On the singular name of this sauce “alla puttanesca” there are several interpretations.

Some say that the name of this recipe originated, at mid-20th century, from the owner of a dating house in the Quartieri Spagnoli, in the center of Naples, who used to serve this dish to his guests, or again as a dish prepared by a restaurant for prostitutes returning late at night.

Another version says it was supposedly born by chance at Sandro Petti’s, in a restaurant in Ischia. 

Some hungry customers of the restaurant, arriving late at night, insisted “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” to the the restaurant owner, which translated, means “prepare anything for us”.

The owner was running out of ingredients, and he would prepare a pasta with the classic ingredients that are never lacking in a southern kitchen, tomate sauce, garlic, olive and cappers and pasta.

Whatever its true origins, we know that it is the best pasta to make when you don’t feel like cooking but want to eat something tasty.

Ingredients for Italian Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

Pasta: Spaghetti pasta is the traditional one used for this recipe, but any other pasta will do.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the pasta should be able to hold the robust sauce without getting lost in it.

If you prefer short pasta, then use fusilli or penne.

Canned san marzano tomatoes: San marzano tomatoes are sweet tomatoes with little acidity, making them perfect for this recipe.

You can also use fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones.

Garlic and olive oil: They are the base for the preparation of this dish.

Black olives and capers: The capers and olives give the dish its characteristic salty flavor, while the tomatoes and garlic create a rich, flavorful sauce. 

Fresh parsley: Adds a fresh flavor to this puttanesca pasta.

Salt and black pepper: To taste.

How to make Pasta Alla Puttanesca (Step by Step)

Step 1

Start by boiling water in a large pot at medium-high heat, and cook the pasta al dente (about 2 minutes less than the time on the packet instructions).

Step 2

While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.

Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook it for about 30 seconds until it takes on color. 

Lightly chop the capers with a knife and add them to the garlic. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on low heat. 

Next, add the tomatoes. 

Step 3

Let the tomato sauce cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then add the black olives and continue to cook so that the flavors blend.

puttanesca sauce

If you like a little spiciness, add a few red pepper flakes at this point.

Step 4

Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the pan with the pasta sauce.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and add the chopped parsley, making sure every strand of pasta is coated with the delicious sauce.

Serve hot and garnish with grated parmigiano cheese, if desired.

spaghetti alla puttanesca copy

Best Tips And Variation

  • It is advisable to add little salt to the spaghetti cooking water, as capers are already present in the preparation and give the sauce the right amount of flavor.
  • Chop the capers: This will help the capers’ flavors incorporate even more into the sauce.
  • Chop the garlic: If you prefer a more garlicky tomato sauce, then you can chop it up.

I leave it whole becauseI love the flavor it adds to the dish, but I don’t like to get it in my mouth.

  • For an extra savory flavor,add some anchovy fillets to the garlic and oil mixture at the beginning of the cooking process.

The addition of anchovies is a variation of the Lazio region.

If you add anchoies then I recommend no cheese.

  • Add a spicy touch: If you like spicy, add red chili pepper, as it will make the dish even better.
  • Use green olives: Tradition calls for using black olives, but green olives are also fine.

What To Serve With Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

This dish pairs well with a variety of side dishes, from simple salads to more substantial dishes.

Consider trying with a salad . Alternatively, roasted vegetables such as zucchini add great depth of flavor and texture to the meal.

For a more substantial option, consider serving the pasta with a side of focaccia to soak up the leftover sauce. 

If you want to serve an entrée before the pasta, try this eggplant rollatini recipe with No sauce, or this homemade pizza rolls.

Don’t forget the desserts.

Choose your favorite from these authentic Italian desserts, like this classic tiramisu.


Spaghetti alla Puttanesca can be stored for 1-2 days in the refrigerator and to reheat them, as always.

I recommend using a pan with a drizzle of olive oil!


Can I prepare this dish in advance?

Yes, you can prepare the sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days. Heat it in a skillet over medium heat before serving.

What kind of cheese should I use to dress this pasta alla puttanesca?

Pecorino Romano or Parmesan are fine for spaghetti puttanesca.

Can I freeze this dish?

I do not recommend freezing pasta puttanesca, but the puttanesca sauce can be frozen.

spaghetti alla puttanesca close photo in the fork

Authentic Italian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe


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Yield: 2

Spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe

spaghetti alla puttanesca with parmesan cheese on top

Spaghetti Puttanesca recipe is a quick and easy recipe, full of flavor, ready in less than 20 minutes. Perfect for midweek dinner!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoon extre virgin olive oil, for cooking and finishing.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and slightly chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. Start by placing a pot with lightly salted water on the stove.
  2. When it starts to boil you can start cooking the pasta. Always remember to cook the pasta al dente (about 2 to 3 minutes less than the time indicated on the package) and save some pasta cooking water.
  3. 2.In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  4. 3. Add the chop capers to the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. 
  5. 4. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juice, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. 
  7. 5.Add in the olives and cook for another few minutes. 
  8. 6. Add the spaghetti to the skillet and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. If the sauce seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. 
  9. At the end add the chopped parsley and mix well.
  10. Serve the spaghetti alla puttanesca immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a little olive oil on top.
  11. Serve it up with a glass of wine and enjoy a taste of Italy!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 483Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 615mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 8g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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