Spaghetti Puttanesca

I thought I would step away from comforting Thanksgiving food for today and turn to a different kind of comfort food: pasta. Spaghetti Puttanesca to be exact. Legend has it that this spicy, salty pasta was a favorite of, to use the family friendly term, “ladies of the night”. Apparently these “ladies” found the inexpensive ingredients and quick preparation an easy meal to make for their “friends”. And while I can’t vouch for their chosen line of work, if the story of how this pasta sauce originated is true, their taste in pasta sauces is pretty good. After all this sauce incorporates some pretty yummy things like tomatoes, capers, crushed red pepper, kalamata olives and anchovies. Yes, I said anchovies, but trust me, in this sauce you will love them.

To be honest, my first experience with anchovies was not very pleasant. It all started one night when I was craving pizza. I called our local pizza place and ordered their pizza loaded with all kinds of ingredients like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and peppers. Basically everything, including anchovies. As I waited for the delivery man, I actually found myself rather excited at the fact that I ordered a pizza with anchovies. I thought I was being daring and adventurous.  When I heard the knock at my door I rushed downstairs threw it open and wooooooooosh I was suddenly blasted with a smell of anchovies and not in a good way. After I signed the receipt and tipped the delivery man a little extra for having to deal with the smell, I shut the door and walked upstairs feeling a little uneasy at the prospect of what I was about to eat. But I did just wait 30 minutes and paid for it so I might as well. I took the first bite and yup, it tasted exactly like it smelled, fishy. And I couldn’t just pick them off. The taste and scent lingered. We ended up throwing out the pizza and eating a couple of PB & J’s. Thus concluded my first experience with anchovies.

You may be wondering why I am telling you how bad anchovies are when I am sharing a recipe that has them as an ingredient. Well because as bad as they may have been on that pizza, when they are sauteed in butter and olive oil until they dissolve they add a wonderful salty background flavor to pasta sauce. And combined with capers, kalamata olives and crushed red peppers they help make this particular pasta sauce one of my favorites.

Spaghetti Puttanesca Recipe

Serves 4 - 6 Prep Time: Cook Time:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)



In a large skillet heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Once butter has melted add onion, anchovies, garlic and crushed red peppers. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until onions are translucent and anchovies are dissolved.


Pour in crushed tomatoes. Stir in capers and kalamata olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle.


About 15 minutes before you would like to serve dinner, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Strain completely.


Toss strained pasta in sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.


As much as you may want to lick the plate clean, I find that Herbed Garlic Bread is a much more dinner table friendly way to soak up the leftover sauce. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

  • Reply
    Gisella Widener
    February 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I have tried many of your recipes and I have to say that they are AMAZING!! They are delicious and easy to prepare too. It is so nice to finally find recipes that use ingredients that we can find in a regular grocery store.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I just searched for a nice spaghetti dinner for tonight. This one will be it. Love the ingredients, already got the taste in my mouth. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Oh do I love this! I serve this on Christmas Eve. It is one of the seven fish dishes served as a part of the family tradition passed on to me.

    • Reply
      November 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

      What a great tradition RedKathy! Traditions are my favorite part of the holiday season.

  • Reply
    Cookin' Canuck
    November 12, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Salt and spice – you’re talking my language. I adore puttanesca, but never think to make it at home. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      November 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm

      You’re welcome Cookin’Canuck! Salt and spice are my favorites too.

    A little bit about me...

    My name is Des. I’m a Mom to Kellan and Preston. Wife to Ryan. Dog mom to Pumpkin and lover of all things food. Whether it is cooking it, eating it, shopping for it or watching TV about it, food is one of my favorite things. Read more »

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