Puttanesca authentic recipe

campania crestPasta alla puttanesca from Campania. The translation of the title of this dish is “whore’s pasta”! There are a lot of stories as to how it got its name, but one of the most common is that it was a dish that the working girls could quickly prepare between customers. Another version is that is was cooked in brothels so customers would be lured in by the enticing aromas. I don’t really buy that one. I think food would be the last thing on the customers minds 😉 It is a relatively modern dish, probably dating back to the end of the second world war. Both Lazio and Campania claim it as their own. This is the Campania version. The recipe comes from Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

A note about the olives. Use the best you can find. Don’t use pitted black olives as properly matured olives are too soft to have their stones removed mechanically, so they will almost certainly be green olives which have been dyed with ferrous glucomate (E151, a synthetic coal tar).

Puttanesca ingredients

Puttanesca ingredients

Serves 5


  • 500g bucatini, linguine, spaghetti or similar
  • 500g peeled tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
  • 2 anchovy fillets (salted or in oil)
  • 100g good quality olives, rinsed. The recipe calls for Gaeta olives, which of course can be green or black, but I have only ever seen this dish prepared with black olives. You can leave them whole or stone them and roughly chop. I prefer half and half.
  • 50g capers, rinsed and roughly chopped. The recipe doesn’t stipulate salted or in brine. I prefer the salted variety
  • 100g olive oil. This seems a lot but you need a fair amount to allow the anchovy fillets to dissolve properly. Use less if you wish
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 chilli (fresh, dried or a good pinch of chilli flakes)
  • Chopped parsley




  1. Gently fry the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets in the oil. Mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they have completely dissolved.
  2. Remove the garlic. You can also remove the chilli if you don’t like it too hot. If you prefer a really fiery dish, crush or finely chop the chilli before frying.
  3. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers. Mash the tomatoes thoroughly with a fork and cook over a medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and heat gently for a couple of minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.



Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca


17 thoughts on “Puttanesca authentic recipe

  1. Really an outstanding recipe. I like to add some white fish, like North Atlantic cod fish, for some protein. Very high quality!

  2. Unfortunately, this recipe is not to get in most Italian restaurants . I try myself with it and cook rather at home my linguine and precisely these great recipes that make Italy from . My English is not so good , I hope you can read the 🙂
    Greetings from Germany says Claudia

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  5. This is now my favourite quick recipe for when I don’t have much time to prepare for dinner. Such a quick and easy dish to make and ultimately satisfying.

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  8. This was lovely, I added more anchovy as i had a small tin and didn’t want to waste any, but I washed most of the salt from them. I have had some very salty puttanescas, but this one brought out the flavours of all the ingredients without too much saltiness. I will definitely cook it again. (Interesting about stoned black olives too.)

  9. Love this recipe, my Italian pasta-addict man loves it too. It really does taste authentic, and works well with both fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes. I’ve made it three times so far, once with standard fresh tomatoes, once with fresh cherry tomatoes, and once with canned tomatoes, and each time it came out a treat. Definitely a new quick and easy favourite in our household!

      • History will tell you that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach. Sauté onions and watch the crowd appear. It works! When you suggest chilli, it sounds like you are referring to chili powder when it should be red pepper flakes.
        And what really makes puttanesca is Kalamata olives and anchovy flavored by the red peppers and garlic flavored olive oil. Where are the tomatoes in your picture?

        • 1 chilli (fresh, dried or a good pinch of chilli flakes) , Is that confusing?
          The tomatoes are the big, red, round things at the back and the way to a man’s heart … is through the ribcage 🙂
          By the way, Kalamata olives are from Greece, not Italy. I’m sure they would be nice, but the original recipe recommends the Italian variety Gaeta.

            • Ahh ok. The tomatoes are in the sauce. Italian recipes use a lot less sauce than Italian American, and other similar recipes. The star of the dish is the pasta, it should not be swimming in sauce.People here believe if can’t taste the pasta, Why bother 🙂

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