This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

This flavorsome spaghetti alla puttanesca sauce recipe is one of the best sauces you can go for, a luscious bowl of pasta full of fiery flavors and ready in 15 minutes.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca with black olives and cherry tomatoes over a white plate.


The recipe typically calls for basic and inexpensive cupboard ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, olives, chili, capers, and anchovy fillets, while the addition of fresh Italian parsley makes this sauce even better.

You can use fresh or canned tomatoes, whatever you’ve got in your ladder. If I find a good bargain, I love using cherry tomatoes this season. They make the dish more enjoyable when the weather gets warmer.

list of the ingredients

  • Fresh or canned tomatoes
  • Olives (sorry, they’re not in the picture!)
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Capers
  • Garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil or olive oil
  • Chili flakes
  • Parsley
  • Salt & pepper
The ingredients for spaghetti alla puttanesca are arranged over a white table.

HOW TO MAKE spaghetti puttanesca

(Note: this is a quick description; the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • Fry garlic gently in olive oil, add chili flakes, anchovy fillets, and capers, and cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Add olives and tomatoes and cook for 7 minutes until tomatoes soften.
  • Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water.
A wooden spoon stirring the ingredients for the puttanesca sauce in a black skillet.
  • Cook spaghetti until al dente, about 2 minutes less than the suggested cooking time.
  • Drain spaghetti and add it to the puttanesca sauce with some cooking water.
  • Cook for a further minute and stir in the chopped parsley.
  • Serve with a good drizzle of olive oil, fresh parsley, and parmesan cheese (optional).
  • Enjoy!
Spaghetti alla puttanesca in a black skillet and on a white plate with a fork.


The word “Puttanesca” literally translates to “in the style of prostitutes,” or “whore’s pasta”, as it is more commonly known. This classic Italian pasta dish was invented in Naples in the mid- 20th century and there are many explanations about the origin of its name.

One of the most popular stories tells that the dish was so popular among prostitutes because it was so cheap and quick to make in between appointments. However, according to another theory, the origin of the name might be related to the word “puttanata” in Italian (which means “rubbish” or “shit”).

Whatever the truth about its origins and myths, we all agree that spaghetti alla puttanesca tastes good!

Spaghetti alla puttanesca with black olive and tomatoes on a white plate over a white background.


Canned tomatoes are more common for spaghetti alla puttanesca, but fresh cherry tomatoes add fresh flavor and make a more enjoyable meal when the weather gets warmer.

Capers are the small flower buds of the Capparis shrub, which grows in the Mediterranean. They’re a versatile store cupboard ingredient and are good for adding a distinctive sour/salty flavor to many savory dishes. Capers preserved in sea salt are much better than the ones preserved in vinegar, they have a fresher and floral aroma. If you can choose between the two options, go for capers packed in sea salt, but make sure to rinse them well, you want to wash out enough of the salt.

Anchovies might be an acquired taste for many, but they are absolutely flavor bombs. These tiny fishes packed in oil or salt bring the puttanesca sauce to a high level of flavor. If you use anchovies packed in salt, soak them in cold water for 10 minutes and wash them under running water rubbing the salt off with your fingers.


If you love this flavorsome spaghetti with puttanesca sauce, you might have a look at these easy pasta recipes:

Are you making spaghetti alla puttanesca sauce tonight?
If so, leave a comment, rate it or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!

puttanesca sauce recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote


This flavor-packed puttanesca sauce typically calls for basic cupboard ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, olives, chilli flakes, capers and anchovy fillets. You can go either for fresh or canned tomatoes, while the addition of fresh parsley makes this dish only better.
The recipe yields 2-3 servings
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Puttanesca sauce recipe
Servings: 2
Author: Katia


  • 1/2 lb Fresh tomatoes or 1 (14oz) can tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 Tbsp capers, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup good quality black olives like Kalamata, halved and pitted
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • grated parmesan (optional)



  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic very gently for about 1 minute, then add the capers, the anchovies, the chili flakes and stir to dissolve for a further minute. Stir in the olives and tomatoes. Break up the olives with a spoon and cook the sauce over medium heat for about 7 minutes.
    Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper only if needed. If you used anchovies or capers packed in salt, you don't need extra salt.
  • Drain the pasta well then tip into the frying pan adding a few Tbsp of the cooking water (you don't need to add cooking water if you use canned or pured tomatoes). Stir in the parlsey and toss well to combine cooking for a further minute.
  • Serve with an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and grated parmesan cheese if you like.


  1. 5 stars
    This is so simple but fresh and delicious!! We have at least once a week!! Authentic ❤️

    1. I’m so pleased you like it, thanks a lot for sharing your lovely feedback! x

  2. Joni Abate says:

    5 stars
    Deliciozo BTW my family is from Calabria, Spezano Albanase thanks again beautiful site 🙂

    1. Grazie! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks for your feedback, Joni!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating