This pasta puttanesca is spaghetti tossed in a homemade tomato sauce that is flavored with olives, capers and herbs. A quick and easy dinner option that tastes like it came straight from your local Italian restaurant!

My family loves Italian food, and I regularly make dishes such as slow cooker bolognese sauce, chicken parmesan, pasta carbonara and this simple yet satisfying spaghetti alla puttanesca.

Pasta puttanesca with olives and capers in tomato sauce.

When I’m looking for a quick and easy dinner, I often turn to pasta recipes such as pasta puttanesca. It uses ingredients that I typically already have on hand, and can be on the table in 30 minutes. How can you go wrong with that?

Pasta Puttanesca Ingredients

To make this recipe, you will need spaghetti, olive oil, anchovy paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, kalamata olives, capers and fresh parsley.

How Do You Make Pasta Puttanesca?

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Place the anchovy paste, garlic and red pepper flakes in the pan and cook until the ingredients are fragrant. Chop the tomatoes, then add them to the pan along with some salt and pepper. Stir everything together, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the olives and capers, then drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce. Add a garnish of parsley, then serve and enjoy.

Homemade tomato sauce in a skillet.

Tips For The Perfect pasta

  • Look for cans of San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe. This variety of tomato is full of flavor and doesn’t contain many seeds, which makes it perfect for sauce making.
  • You can use any type of black olive that you like. I typically use Kalamata olives, but a nice Gaeta or Nicoise would also work well. Just be sure to remove the pits before you add the olives to the sauce.
  • Salt packed capers have the best flavor and texture, just give them a quick rinse before putting them in the sauce.
  • This pasta stays fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days, which makes it great for meal prep.
  • I typically serve this dish with garlic knots and an Italian salad for a complete meal.

Quick Tip

If you prefer a spicier pasta, feel free to increase the amount of red pepper flakes.

Tomato sauce with olives and capers on top.

Recipe FAQs

What is in puttanesca sauce?

Puttanesca sauce is made with tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, olive oil, anchovies, olives and capers. While you may think that anchovies are an odd choice for pasta sauce, do not omit them from the recipe! The anchovies make the sauce more complex in flavor, but the sauce does not taste fishy. In fact, you probably won’t even notice that the anchovy paste is there.

What does puttanesca sauce taste like?

Puttanesca sauce has a similar flavor to marinara sauce, but with the addition of olives and capera. It’s also spicier than a traditional tomato sauce because of the red pepper flakes.

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Spaghetti in a pan of tomato sauce with olives and capers.

Flavor Variations

This recipe as written is a fairly classic rendition of this dish, but you can alter the ingredients to suit your tastes.

  • Protein: Add grilled chicken breast, garlic butter shrimp or grilled flank steak on top of your pasta.
  • Herbs: Feel free to use other herbs instead of the parsley such as oregano or basil.
  • Pasta: While this dish is often made with spaghetti, other long pasta will also work such as linguine or angel hair pasta.
  • Cheese: Add some freshly grated cheese over the top such as parmesan, romano or even mozzarella.
Pasta puttanesca with spaghetti tossed in a homemade tomato sauce.

This pasta dish is loaded with bold flavors, and tastes like it came straight from your local Italian restaurant. This is a must-try for when you need dinner on the table quickly!

More Italian Dishes To Try

Pasta Puttanesca Video

Love This Recipe?

Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 27 votes

Pasta Puttanesca

AuthorSara Welch
Pasta puttanesca with olives and capers in tomato sauce.
This pasta puttanesca is spaghetti tossed in a homemade tomato sauce that is flavored with olives, capers and herbs. A quick and easy dinner option that tastes like it came straight from your local Italian restaurant!
Time
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6

Ingredients 

  • 12 ounces spaghetti pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
  • 28 ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives pitted and halved
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste, garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan.
  • Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Coarsely chop the tomatoes then add them to the pan. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Stir to combine the tomatoes and olive oil mixture. Bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have broken down and formed a sauce.
  • Stir in the olives and capers.
  • Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve.

Notes

  1. Look for cans of San Marzano tomatoes for this recipe. This variety of tomato is full of flavor and doesn’t contain many seeds, which makes it perfect for sauce making.
  2. You can use any type of black olive that you like. I typically use Kalamata olives, but a nice Gaeta or Nicoise would also work well. Just be sure to remove the pits before you add the olives to the sauce.
  3. Salt packed capers have the best flavor and texture, just give them a quick rinse before putting them in the sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 355kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 538mg | Potassium: 525mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 329IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3mg

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the recipe! This was always one of my favorite dishes at my (now sadly closed) local hole in the wall Italian bistro. This recipe is perfect! Now I just have to figure out how to make their sausage / cheese sauce to try to recreate their polenta appetizer.

    Thanks so much!

  2. 5 stars
    This is very, very good and I have made it several times–again tonight. If you want to add protein, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, seasoned and sautéed in the same pan in which you’ll make the sauce, are a great addition. A favorite in our house. 6 servings? Not here! Maybe 4.

    1. You never add chicken to this dish. Only chopped garlic, anchovies (if you like) capers, black olives(Gaeta or kalamata) peperoncino ( or chili flakes and canned San Marzano tomatoes, salt.

  3. 5 stars
    One of the best dishes I have had in a longggggggg time! Super easy to make… only question I have is, I know it says 6 servings. What measurement or amount is each serving? Thank you in advance and also for this amazing recipe 🤓.

  4. I’ve never used anchovy paste before….does it add a discernable fishy taste? My husband laughs at me because I say I like fish if it doesn’t taste “fishy”! Except for my concern about that, this sounds like a delicious recipe, and it would be something I could make for my daughter’s fiance who is pesceatarian.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this. It was INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS!!! Easy to make and tasted even better cold for lunch the next day. Didn’t need any cheese at all. So much flavor.
    Thanks so much for this recipe.

      1. I forgot to post, I use 1 can of anchovies & italian canned crushed or tomatoe pure, 1 28ozs can, or depending on quantity made.
        Question: Now does any one knows the origin of the Salsa Puttanesca? Look it up it’s very interesting to say the least!

  6. Great recipe, only changes I made were: Crush a red chilli and garlic bulb and heat through in the olive oil for a few minutes, this flavoured oil really comes through in the finished dish.I also used a mix of thyme, oregano and marjoram to flavour the sauce.
    Parmigiana or Pecorino work great but I think Mozzarella is wrong for this dish, it needs to be light.

  7. 5 stars
    Ohmygosh!!!! This looks absolutely AMAZING! All the seasonings and colors! I’m adding this to my weekly menu, stat!

  8. 5 stars
    The pasta puttanesca is my favorite, yours is so colorful and so easy to prepare. I loved it! I had to eat two bowls.

  9. 5 stars
    I love Italian food too. Love the tomato base to making this pasta dish. My family love such amazing dishes any day. Thanks

  10. 5 stars
    Pasta puttanesca is one of my favorite dishes to order when I go to an Italian restaurant!! And this recipe makes it so easy to recreate the delicious restaurant version at home – we loved it!

  11. 5 stars
    This pasta dish uses only very little ingredients, yet results in restaurant quality pasta dish. We’ll be making this again and again.

  12. 5 stars
    Mmmm this looks so delicious! The flavor combinations are something I am really craving now! Looks great!