Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

A traditional and satisfying italian pasta dish. A little spicy, a little tangy, a lot of salty. Our fail-safe pasta recipe is a variation of this, without the anchovies and capers, but this version is more traditional. Be careful though – the sauce gets very salty, fast, so you do not need to add more salt at any point. If you think about it, you’re mixing 3 very salty-to-begin-with foods, olives, capers, and anchovies, of course it’s going to be salty. I was worried at first it would be inedible, as that’s how it tasted in the pan, but once it had been diluted with pasta, it was just about right.

We’re very sensitive to salty foods anyway. I pin that to one episode with a shrimp recipe, which we followed to the T. Took one bite of the shrimp and just about gagged the thing was so salty. Ever since then we have been stingy salters, erring on the side of too little rather than repeat the horror of the over-salted shrimp. There are very few dishes we’ve cooked that were so bad we had to throw them out, only two in recent memory: a pretty nasty bitter eggplant something or other, and the shrimp. Blame that one on the salt.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Makes 4 servings. Recipe from Bon Appetit.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 28.2-ounce can peeled tomatoes in puree with basil

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved, pitted

3 anchovy fillets, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons drained capers

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

3/4 pound spaghetti

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Grated Parmesan cheese


Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with puree, olives, anchovies, capers, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until thickened, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta; return to same pot. Add sauce and parsley. Toss over low heat until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve with cheese.

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