Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

August 23, 2014

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

‘Spaghetti of the Whore’ may not be the most appetising name for a dish but don’t let that put you off. Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a tangy, salty, fragrant dish that packs a big flavour punch and is the perfect way to quench the salt craving after a few beers.

There are quite a few stories about how this dish originated. One is that prostitutes around Rome carried all of the ingredients with them (as they didn’t need to be kept cool) so they could cook up the sauce on an open fire on the street. Although this is disputed – many claim Sandro Petti invented it in the 1950’s as he had nothing but these ingredients left in his restaurant to feed a table of hungry punters. To me, it doesn’t matter. It’s a great dish that will get the taste buds hopping and the forehead sweating! I have seen recipes with similar quantities to serve 4. I don’t think there is enough sauce and it becomes too plain when cooked this way. I prefer this method.

Serves 2

2 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)
6-8 fillets of Anchovies in Oil (finely chopped)
1 dried Red Chilli (finely chopped)
90g pitted Black Olives (finely chopped)
1 heaped tbsp Salted Capers (rinsed)
300g Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
1 tsp Dried Oregano
120g Dried Spaghetti
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

1.  Saute the garlic, anchovies and chilli in the oil over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes and oregano and season with pepper (don’t add salt!). Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes, removing the lid for the final 5 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly. Check for seasoning.

2. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente (about 1 minute less than packet instructions). Drain, reserving the cooking water. Add the drained spaghetti to the sauce and mix well. Add a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if it’s a little dry. Serve.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


8 thoughts on “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca”

  • Anchovies in oil have been hard to find. What are your thoughts on substituting with fish oil (which is made with anchovies)?

    • If you can’t find anchovies in oil, have a look for salted anchovies instead. I assume you are talking about asian style fish sauce which wouldn’t give quite the same effect. If anchovies are impossible to find I would just leave them out and add a little extra olives and capers instead. You may need to add a little salt to the sauce too.

      • Thanks for the reply. I did finally hunt down anchovies in oil (apparently they come in tins, jars, and salted?). I tried making the recipe tonight, and I quite enjoyed the forward flavors. Upon first looking at the ingredients, I thought the flavor profile would be a bit much, but upon tasting, I quite like the bold flavors; in fact, I could have even made it bolder by playing around with the ratios of ingredients. Thanks for sharing and replying, much appreciated.

        • Hi Peter,
          Yes they are available in lots of ways – I love them fresh too but much more difficult to find in the depths of Kildare. It is quite a bold sauce which can be too much for some people. I love it and often increase the proportion of chilli to give it more kick or add 1/2tsp of fennel seeds for an aniseed warmth. Thanks for the comments Peter.

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