How To Make Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca

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Looking to make spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce? Try our Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca. In Italian, it means…well, “prostitute.” The name derives from the Italian word “puttana.”

There are many interpretations around this recipe; the one that I know is that, when being a prostitute was a legal job, the intense smell of the sauce lured men from the street into the ‘office’ of these ladies of the night. Another story tells that the prostitutes made this pasta for themselves because it was quick enough to make in between appointments.

Regardless of the origin of the name, Puttanesca is a tasty and vibrant dish. The spaghetti sauce is made with fresh tomatoes and is good to keep in mind when you don’t have time!

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Let’s Make Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca!

Diet Considerations

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Dairy-Free

Ingredients (Serves 5)

  • 500 gr / 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1.5 kg / 6 cups plain tomato sauce
  • 2 handfuls of capers, washed
  • 2 handfuls parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 handfuls black olives, pitted
  • 2-3 handfuls coarse sea salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ½ tsp of chili flakes
  • 120 ml / 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Prep Time: 15 minutes.

Cook Time: 20 minutes.

  1. Wash the Capers

    Wash and rinse the capers very well to get rid of the salt. (Important! The capers MUST be preserved in salt. Don’t buy capers in vinegar, the taste of your sauce will be totally different.)

  2. Sauté

    In a sauté pan large enough to hold all the pasta, pour abundant extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom. Sauté the garlic cloves, capers, olives, and chili flakes in olive oil.

  3. Add the Sauce

    Add the tomato sauce and cook for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally. Don’t add salt to the sauce because the capers are already very salty.

  4. Cook the Spaghetti

    Boil about 4 quarts of water a large pot. When it comes to a boil, add coarse sea salt and then the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti “al dente” (check by tasting) and then drain.

  5. Mix

    Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan with the sauce and sauté for 2-3 minutes over medium heat so the spaghetti can absorb the flavor of the sauce.

  6. Sprinkle Parsley

    Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

  7. Optional – Add Anchovies

    If you are not vegetarian you can also add some anchovies (which are really delicious…) to the sauté.

Get Personalized Help

Need Help?


Plan it into your week

The best way to remember to make it is to plan for it. Learn about meal prep through our article Meal Prep 101, by dietician Shannon Costello.


Print out the ingredient list

Need the ingredients list on hand? Simply pull up the article on your phone (it’s mobile compatible) or click here to print it out.


Email Chicca for help

Chicca’s here to help. If you need assistance with the recipe, email her at [email protected]


Take the class

Feeling adventurous? Take a trip over to Italy and take the class, led by Chicca, on how to make this (as well as many other amazing dishes)!

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About the Author

Chicca Maione

Chicca Maione

Italian Chef

Chicca is a Tuscan-based architect and passionate chef of home-cooked food. After many years of cooking for family and friends, she found her calling: teaching people how to cook authentic homemade food while sharing recipes and stories about her incredible culture. She has spread the traditional-Italian and typical-Tuscan cuisine in Italy and abroad for the past 19 years.
Full Bio

* Recipe posted with permission from the author, Chicca Maione, at Cooking in Tuscany.

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