Pasta Puttanesca

February 20, 2011

We celebrated my good friend Kristina’s birthday this weekend. We had a blast out on the town and started our evening right: in a stylish bar, with our very first real martinis.

I ordered mine Extra Dirty because I love olive juice and also because it sounds cool. After I ordered it, my friend David said, “Oh, aren’t you fancy?” And I said, “Well David, it takes a certain kind of person to order an extra dirty martini at a classy bar.” To which David responded, “What kind of person? Oh, right, an extra dirty one.” Here are David and Will at a burrito place much later that evening.

Midnights spent at late night burrito places sometimes lead to very difficult mornings. But I regret nothing. On top of the hours of fun we had around town, the extra dirty martini I had reminded me of a wonderful recipe I found for Pasta Puttanesca.

Pasta Puttanesca is a sauce made from tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, and herbs. It cooks quickly (less than 30 minutes, actually) and is extremely fragrant and delciious.

Puttanesca literally translates to “in the style of the whore” in Italian. There are various explanations for this name. Some say that Italian prostitutes made this aromatic sauce to lure men into their houses of ill repute. Others claim this sauce was made by Italian housewives who wanted to finish making dinner quickly to attend to other nighttime activities. Either way, this is one of my new favorite winter time dishes. Particularly if you must attend to other nighttime activities.

PASTA PUTTANESCA (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Pasta Puttanesca)

I doubled the sauce in this recipe so we’d have extra to take for lunch and to spread over chicken later in the week. I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so this made about 5 servings of sauce.


  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 6 or more anchovy fillets
  • Two 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil leaves for garnish, optional


Salt a pot of boiling water and bring it to a boil. Heat a large saucepan on medium low heat (Don’t try to heat it any higher of the anchovies will explode when you add them. Trust me). Add your olive oil, then add garlic and anchovies. Saute a few minutes until garlic is lightly browned.

Drain your tomatoes and tear them into smaller pieces with your hands (be careful not to squirt tomato juice everywhere). Add to the saucepan with a little salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high, cooking and stirring occasionally until the tomatoes break down (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to a simmer and add capers, olives, and red pepper flakes.

Cook your pasta to al dente. Toss pasta with sauce. Garnish with fresh herbs, if you like. Enjoy.


One Response to “Pasta Puttanesca”

  1. Amy Says:

    Well dressed guys and gals in a fancy lounge….add a couple of martini’s into the mix and it’s all down hill (as evidence by late night burrito raid). My kind of night Cuz. Maybe I should jump on a plane for a visit…..
    I love Pasta Puttanesca. I surprisingly like anchovies too, when they are cooked down. Leaves a nice “nutty flavor.” Larry also likes lots of sauce. One of these days I’m going to give this recipe a whirl. Thanks for another keeper.



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