Spicy puttanesca pasta

Spicy puttanesca pasta with anchovies, olives and capers
This classic Italian pasta dish is named after the ladies of the night although the true meaning of its origin is widely debated. Some say Neopolitan prostitutes hastily prepared this fragrant dish to lure customers using readily available and inexpensive pantry items… others insist that the name reflects the seemingly thrown together "puttanata" or mess of ingredients with spicy, zesty flavors. One thing is certain - it's fast, easy and satisfying any time of the day or night (no cheese, please)!

4 servings


  • 1 pound/455g Penne pasta or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or sliced into paper thin slices
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes or ½ dried Peperoncino chili pepper, crumbled
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and torn into pieces or cut into julienne
  • 10 anchovy filets, drained and chopped into small pieces or mashed with a fork
  • ½ cup/60g (14 to 15) black Mediterranean olives in brine, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 1½ tablespoons capers, rinsed of brine or salt
  • 28oz/795g canned Italian Roma plum tomatoes, chopped (or 10 ripe plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped)
  1. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large, covered pot over high heat. Once the water boils, add a generous handful of kosher salt. When water returns to a vigorous boil, add all the pasta and stir once with tongs or a wooden fork to separate the pasta strands and avoid sticking. Cook the pasta until "al dente", tender yet firm to the bite (usually 1 to 2 minutes less than package instructions).

  2. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the Puttanesca sauce. Make a flavor base by heating the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan or skillet that is large enough to eventually toss the cooked pasta. Add the sliced garlic and hot pepper flakes and sauté briefly until the garlic softens and beginning to take on color without browning, less than one minute. Toss the torn basil leaves into the oil. Add the olives, capers and anchovies and stir, lightly mashing the anchovies with a wooden spoon as they melt in the hot oil. Cook for less than a minute then add the chopped tomatoes and season very lightly with a pinch or two of salt (the anchovies and olives naturally salt the sauce). Stir to incorporate the ingredients well. Bring the sauce to a lively boil then reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

  3. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and add the pasta to the sauce. Toss or fold the pasta in the sauce to combine for a minute over heat, drizzling with more extra virgin olive oil to finish.

  4. Transfer to a warm serving platter or individual plates, garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and enjoy immediately.
Buon appetito!

Copyright, 2008, Deborah Dal Fovo, All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


About Deborah Dal Fovo:
An accomplished Chef and authority on the fine art of Italian living, Deborah Dal Fovo mastered her culinary education in Italian food and wine hands-on from some of Italy's finest and most renowned chefs, winemakers and food producers. Her formal culinary studies include classic training at French Master Chef Roger Vergé's legendary cooking school in Mougins, France.

Deborah's love of food and cooking began at home in her Northern Italian-American household inspiring her to return to Italy where she lived in both Milan and Tuscany for 20 years while traveling extensively throughout Italy cultivating the country's diverse regional flavors and culinary traditions.

A dual citizen of Italy and the United States, Deborah now lives primarily in Northern California and shares her vast Italian experience as a Private Chef, Cooking Instructor, Italian Lifestyle expert and an enthusiastic Italian ambassador of good taste.

Deborah Dal Fovo teaches authentic Italian Cooking classes at Draeger's, Ramekins, Sur la Table, Relish, VIVA cooking schools and her own private cooking schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Deborah appears frequently on TV and DVD cooking shows as guest chef and Italian cooking expert.
Website: www.deborahdalfovo.com

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