Pasta alla Puttanesca

Pasta alla Puttanesca is a classic Italian dish bursting with fresh tomatoes, salty capers, and savory anchovies, all tossed in rich olive oil and Italian seasonings. This hearty meal is perfect for any night when you crave a quick and satisfying dinner and is easy to make!

While pasta is a rare treat in this house. I blame it on the fact that we do not have one ounce of Italian blood on either side of the family. My Grandfather wouldn’t even allow garlic in the house. Now, that’s just sacrilege even to a non-Italian like me!  

But with so much fresh produce blooming during the summer months, I can’t help but make a delicious Italian dish that has a light, refreshing flavor even though it’s pasta. Pasta alla Puttanesca is a traditional Italian dish where cooked pasta is tossed in a bold sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, capers, and olives. This flavorful combination creates a savory and tangy meal that’s both hearty and satisfying and very easy to put together.

Using Fresh Jersey Tomatoes

I hadn’t made Puttanesca in years and never used fresh tomatoes before. If you’ve never had it, it is so worth a try. It packs a nice heat from the crushed red pepper and a depth of flavor you would never guess those oily little Anchovies could deliver. This recipe uses four cups of fresh diced Jersey tomatoes. The end result was “lick the bowl good.” No kidding, I was up in the middle of the night thinking about how good it was and how I wished there were leftovers! 

Putanessca pasta is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or even a Sunday feast or dinner party. It pairs well with a crisp green salad and garlic bread or with grilled chicken or fish for extra protein!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Simple ingredients: This recipe uses simple, pantry-friendly ingredients that are easy to find and affordable.
  • Quick prep time: It’s quick to prepare, making it perfect for busy weeknight dinners.
  • Fresh and savory: The combination of fresh tomatoes, capers, and anchovies creates a deliciously complex and savory flavor.
  • Customizable: It’s easily adjustable for different dietary preferences, such as using gluten-free pasta or tossing in other meats or veggies you have on hand. 

Great for meal prep: Leftovers taste just as good, if not better, making it a great option for meal prep.

Key Ingredient Notes

  • Pasta – Serves as the hearty base that absorbs the flavorful sauce, making each bite satisfying and delicious. You can use any pasta you enjoy, including whole wheat or gluten-free. 
  • Fresh Red Tomatoes – Adds a vibrant, juicy sweetness and freshness to the sauce, balancing the salty and savory elements, especially when it’s fresh Jersey tomatoes! 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Provides a rich, fruity foundation that enhances the flavors of the garlic, anchovies, and seasonings.
  • Seasonings (oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper) – Infuse the sauce with aromatic, spicy, and savory notes.
  • Capers – Bring a burst of tangy, briny flavor that cuts through the richness of the sauce.
  • Chopped Garlic – Adds a pungent, aromatic flavor that is classic in Italian dishes.
  • Anchovy Fillets – These small salty fish melt into the sauce, delivering a subtle umami richness that deepens the flavor.
  • Black Olives – Adds an additional layer of salty, briny flavor along with texture. 
  • Chopped Parsley – Adds a fresh, garden taste and a natural pop of green color.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano – Offers a salty, nutty finish that complements the other flavors.

Pasta alla Puttanesca

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta (your favorite)
  • 4 cups diced fresh red tomatoes
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. dried Oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 Cup sliced black olives
  • 1/4 Cup capers
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 8 Flat Anchovy fillets in oil, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • Shredded Parmegiano Regiano

Instructions

    1. Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt (2.5 tablespoons for each 6 quarts of water). Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box until it is barely al dente.
    2. Saute the aromatics: While the pasta is cooking, get out a large skillet and add the olive oil and heat to medium high. Saute the garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes and oregano until the anchovies melt down and the mixture becomes fragrant. This will take about two minutes.
    3. Make the sauce: To the skillet, add the diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper and gently stir until the tomatoes become tender. Keep stirring until smooth or keep the texture chunky. It’s up to you! Add capers and olives, then continue to saute for another two minutes until combined.
    4. Assemble the dish: Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the sauce in the skillet. Toss with tongs until the pasta is well coated and becomes al dente. Plate and garnish with parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe Tips

  • Dice the tomatoes into evenly sized pieces for consistent cooking and texture.
  • Cook the pasta until it's just barely al dente since it will cook further when mixed with the sauce.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat to avoid burning the garlic.
  • Allow the anchovies to fully melt into the oil to release their umami flavor.
  • Keep the tomatoes chunky for a heartier sauce, or stir until they break down for a smoother consistency.
  • Use tongs to toss the pasta with the sauce thoroughly to make sure each piece is well-coated.
  • Make sure the skillet you use to make the sauce is large enough to hold one pound of cooked pasta and some room for tossing. 

Customize It

  • Use whole wheat or gluten-free pasta for a healthier or gluten-free option.
  • Add grilled chicken or shrimp for extra protein and a heartier meal.
  • Mix in sun-dried tomatoes along with the fresh ones for an intense, concentrated tomato taste.
  • Add a splash of white wine to the sauce for a touch of acidity and depth.
  • If you don't have fresh tomatoes, use crushed tomatoes for a smoother, more uniform sauce.
  • Add a handful of chopped kale, spinach, or arugula at the end for added greens and freshness.
  • Top the finished dish with toasted breadcrumbs for extra crunch.
  • Use fresh basil instead of parsley for an even more aromatic Italian flavor.

Storing & Freezing

  • Storing: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Let it cool completely before storing.
  • Freezing: Freeze cooled leftovers in a freezer-safe container or freezer-safe bags for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Keep in mind that the pasta may change texture when thawed, but it will still be delicious! 
  • Reheating: Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat in a skillet or saucepan until warmed through, adding a splash of water or olive oil if needed.

FAQ

How can I make this vegetarian without anchovies?

Omit the anchovies and add extra capers or a dash of soy sauce to maintain the umami flavor. You can also use a plant-based anchovy substitute available in some stores.

What is the best type of pasta shape for Pasta alla Puttanesca?

Spaghetti is the traditional choice for Pasta alla Puttanesca, as its long strands hold the sauce well. However, you can use any pasta shape you prefer, such as penne linguine or even bowties!

Can I use canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes?

Yes, you can use canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Use high-quality canned tomatoes, and adjust the cooking time as they may break down faster than fresh tomatoes.

More Pasta Recipes For Dinner

Butternut Squash Pasta

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Whole Wheat Salmon Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Chicken Parmigiana