Pasta puttanesca is a traditional Italian pasta that’s super easy to make with just a few simple ingredients. My version is a vegetarian, garlicky tomato sauce made with sweet cherry tomatoes, brought to a high level of flavor by adding briny capers and buttery olives. It’s an amazingly effective emergency back pocket meal that’s ready in a flash, delicious and budget-friendly.
Spaghetti puttanesca is a delicious pasta that everyone should know, I love it, it’s one of my favorites! In this recipe there’s no jarred sauce required, just a few ingredients and it comes together in a blitz. Every last twist of pasta is absolutely crave worthy. It’s saucy, herby, and bursting with flavor. As if this wasn’t enough, almost all of the ingredients are from the pantry or your fridge’s condiment section.
The tomato-based sauce gets big flavor punches from the salty, briny capers and buttery green olives. The result is a saucy pasta that’s deeply satisfying. I skipped the traditional anchovies and added soy sauce instead, but feel free to use them. You can toss the anchovies together with garlic into the tomatoes.
This is a great weeknight dinner recipe, but it’s also delicious enough to wow your guests on your next dinner party. Serve with a big leafy salad, with a side of grilled chicken or fish.
Let me guide you through the recipe with this step-by-step VIDEO.
Let’s get into the details first! It all starts with oil and butter, then we add the tomatoes. Cook them until they start to soften, next add garlic, the seasoning and stir in tomato paste. We simmer the tomatoes until they’re cooked down, burst and release their juices. This is how we make the base for the sauce.
While the tomatoes are simmering, we boil-off the spaghetti. You can use any cut of pasta you love most. By the time the pasta is done cooking, the tomatoes should be ready. We add olives, capers and a generous splash of cooking water. Toss with spaghetti and parsley …and you’re ready to eat.
Pasta Puttanesca Ingredients
Let’s talk ingredients!
- Pasta: you can use any long or short pasta shape you like, like pappardelle, linguine or orecchiette
- Cherry tomatoes: they break down while sautéing, creating a slightly sweet tomato sauce
- Olives: use your favorite, green or black olives. In this recipe, the one ingredient I would recommend really worth seeking out is good quality olives in olive oil. Both, pitted and unpitted are great, but pitting your own is always better
- Capers: add little pops of that unique briny flavor to the sauce
- Soy sauce: this adds a savory flavor and saltiness to the sauce, if you want to add anchovies instead, don’t be shy
- Garlic: never disappoints
- Seasoning: we’ll be adding Italian seasoning, freshly ground black pepper, some extra salt and red pepper flakes, which makes things even better
- Tomato paste: for an extra tomatoey punch
- Olive oil and butter: for cooking and creating a glossier sauce. Alternatively, you can leave out the butter
- Parsley: this herby finishing touch will add some freshness to the sauce. But if you have some fresh basil on hand, use it instead
Do it your way, make this recipe yours!
- Use crushed tomatoes, canned whole San Marzano tomatoes or jarred puréed tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes
- Don’t like olives? Leave them out
- Prefer the traditional recipe with anchovies instead of soy sauce? Just toss them right in
- This recipe works just fine with any long or short pasta
- Serve with a big leafy side salad drizzled with a balsamic dressing, panzanella salad or arugula salad
- Make ahead: The sauce can be made 2 days beforehand
- Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days
- Freeze: You can freeze the leftovers in airtight containers for up to 3 months. Taw overnight and reheat with a splash of water
More Pasta Ideas
- Spicy Pasta alla Vodka with ‘Nduja
- Garlic Butter Tomato Spaghetti
- Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Eggplant Sauce
- Sun-Dried Tomato Rigatoni
- One Pot Tomato Beef Orzo
- Eggplant and sun dried tomato pasta with ricotta
Calories Per Serving: 344 kcal
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Calories Per Serving: 344 kcal