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White plate with spaghetti in a puttanesca sauce. Fork with twirled noodles around it and fresh parsley and parmesan on top.

Delicious Italian Puttanesca Pasta Sauce

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5 from 4 reviews


An insanely delicious pasta puttanesca. The perfect marriage of capers, anchovies and olives in a garlicky tomato sauce. A staple recipe to have in your repertoire.


200 grams dried spaghetti, see notes

1.5 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped, see notes

2 tablespoons capers

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

3/4 cup black olives, I used pitted kalamata olives

1 x 400 gram can whole tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Parmesan cheese to serve


  1. Get a pot of well salted water boiling and drop the pasta in when the tomato sauce has just come to a simmer. If you don't want to time it perfectly you could make the sauce, turn off the heat then bring it back to a simmer when the pasta is ready.
  2. Reserve a mug of pasta water before draining.
  3. Whizz the can of tomatoes and tomato paste together in a bullet, stick blender or food processor. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the can, swirl around and add that to the mixture.
  4. In a large skillet place the oil and garlic cold into the pan and place over a low heat. It should take about 4 - 5 mins to slowly come up to a very gentle sizzle.
  5. Add the anchovies (and red pepper flakes if using) and cook for 1 - 2 mins until mostly dissolved. You can turn the heat up slightly here if you need. Stir frequently so nothing sticks or burns.
  6. Add the capers and olives and gently sizzle for another minute.
  7. Add the tomato mixture, mix well and bring to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away for 10 - 15 minutes.
  8. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water into the sauce along with the cooked pasta.
  9. Toss well and let it gently bubble for 1 - 2 mins until the sauce is clinging to the pasta.
  10. Toss the flat leaf parsley through and serve immediately. Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some extra parsley.


Anchovies - Please don't leave them out, it is the signature flavor of this dish. It doesn't taste fishy at all, it just adds a wonderful depth of flavor and seasoning. I have used 4 but you could use 3 for the first time.

Rinsing - I don't rinse the capers or olives from their brine. I think any additional briny flavor is great here.

Pasta - If you use fresh pasta you'll need 300 grams. I always weigh pasta portions, it means the perfect ratio of sauce to pasta. I allow 100 grams per person dried pasta or 150 grams fresh per person.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Tomato Sauces
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian