Alla puttanesca is happening and it’s SO good.

This classic Italian pasta sauce isn’t like most tomato-based pasta sauces. Where many go-to tomato sauces are vibrant, tangy and slightly sweet, alla puttanesca is salty, briny, big in flavor and deep in color. It’s a thick, chunky sauce that sticks to pasta, making every bite of this dish incredibly flavorful.

TheFeedfeed and Simply Organic recently asked me how I #CookForJoy and after researching alla puttanesca, and stumbling across some old recipe cards written by my grandma, the answer was clear. I cook for joy through recreating family favorites, because if there’s one ingredient that always the most important, it’s nostalgia.

Overhead photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce on white plates

So what is alla puttanesca and what does it mean?

Hailing from Naples, alla puttanesca is a thick tomato-based pasta sauce laced with bold flavors from red wine, garlic, anchovy, olives and capers.

The age-old story goes something like this: a restaurant owner threw “rubbish” from his cupboard together to create a unique pasta for his hungry friends. The rubbish ingredients were olives and capers. And so alla puttanesca was born. Not rubbish at all.  

Although the history of all puttanesca might not be very poetic, it’s still fun to learn about how it came to be. Sometimes the stories of our recipes, whether they’re cultural classics or family secrets, are what make them so good. Sure, it’s about flavor and texture and complementing ingredients, but it’s also largely about the tradition they hold.

Overhead photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce on white plates

What goes with puttanesca?

Since alla puttanesca is so big in flavor, I recommend serving it with a simple, fresh side dish. Any kind of green salad with a creamy dressing, sautéed veggie (broccolini, green beans) or roasted vegetable work really well.

For a full menu idea, check out my Easy Italian Dinner Party Menu! It features a fun cocktail and the easiest/most delicious roasted green beans (coming soon).

Close up photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce.

How do you make pasta alla puttanesca?

Pasta alla puttanesca is one of the easiest pasta sauces you can make! Seriously, it has a short ingredient list and a short cook time—it just doesn’t get any more ideal than that!

Here are the basics when it comes to making alla puttanesca:

  • Sauté onions until softened.
  • Start adding layers of flavor and sauté.
    • Flavor makers:
      • Tomato paste
      • Garlic
      • Anchovy paste
      • Italian seasoning
      • Red pepper flakes
  • Add tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer.
  • Stir in olives and capers (also flavor makers).

 

So let’s talk about the flavor makers! These ingredients are essential for making alla puttanesca the unique pasta sauce that it is.

First up, tomato paste. A common ingredient in any tomato sauce, tomato paste adds deep tangy flavor and a bit of sweetness, both ideal for creating a delicious sauce. Garlic is also a common ingredient and adds depth of flavor.

Anchovy paste is a heavy hitter and it’s definitely one of the most important ingredients. It doesn’t add a fishy flavor, rather it adds salty, umami flavor.

Italian seasoning may be classic in most tomato sauces but it’s not common in alla puttanesca. However, I find it adds a soft herb note which perfectly compliments the other flavors in the dish.

Likewise, the slight heat of red pepper flakes enhances the rest of the flavors while not being overly hot. But unlike Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes are classic to alla puttanesca. The Italian seasoning and the red pepper flakes add flavor and enhance flavor. The sign of quality ingredients!

And of course, when it comes to spices you know I love Simply Organic. Their spices and seasonings are always incredibly fresh and reliable. Using good spices and seasonings makes cooking that much easier and enjoyable.

The final two ingredients that truly define alla puttanesca are olives and capers. They’re stirred in right at the end and are heated through just before serving. These two ingredients are what create the quintessential briny, salty flavor of alla puttanesca.

Overhead photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce on white plates

How to make alla puttanesca vegan:

Although anchovies are classic in alla puttanesca, you can easily leave the anchovy paste (or fillets) out to make this sauce vegan. Easy peasy!

Overhead photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce on white plates

Print
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Overhead photograph of pappardelle pasta topped with puttanesca sauce on white plates

Pasta alla Puttanesca

  • Author: Lauren Grant of Zestful Kitchen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 3½ cups (4 servings) 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This classic pasta alla puttanesca will transport you to Naples in just one bite. Fiery, salty and briny, this super easy pasta sauce comes together incredibly quickly, so get the pasta cooking ASAP!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (2½ teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 2 teaspoons Simply Organic Italian Seasoning
  • ¼½ teaspoon Simply Organic Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 can peeled plum tomatoes in juice (28 ounces), crushed
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 hefty basil sprig, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 12 ounces pappardelle, spaghetti or rigatoni
  • Parsley (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan (optional)

Instructions

Heat oil over medium in a large sauté pan. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, tomato paste, anchovy paste, italian seasoning, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, and basil sprig, bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.

Stir olives and capers into sauce and cook to heat through; discard basil sprig. Serve puttanesca sauce over pasta and top with fresh basil, parsley and parmesan, if desired.


Notes

Recipe Notes

  • You can use 3 whole anchovies packed in oil instead of the anchovy paste.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • Sauté pan
  • Large pot

Meal prep notes:

  • Pasta can be made up to 4 days ahead.
  • Reheat puttanesca on the stove top over medium until simmering.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 392
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Sodium: 815mg
  • Fat: 16g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 56g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 12g
  • Cholesterol: 70mg

Keywords: Pasta dinner, Italian Pasta, alla puttanesca

Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

This sponsored post is in partnership with Simply Organic and TheFeedFeedAs always the thoughts, opinions, recipe, photos and content are all my own.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. LOVE this recipe ❤️. Sometimes sauces are too sweet for me, so I love all the earthy, Herby flavors in here. Not to mention pappardelle is my favorite pasta noodle!!