Epicure Recipe Card #20: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

On the night that I had friends over and made the Sardine & Tomato Tart, I also made this spaghetti alla puttanesca. As both recipes involve using tinned tomatoes and a minimum of ingredients, it was easy to make both on the same evening. Whether the easiness or speediness of this dish has anything to do with its mythical origins of being related to prostitutes is now not possible to prove, but what can be attested to is the simplicity in preparation yielding a complexity of flavours.

I made this using angel hair pasta instead of spaghetti or spaghettini, which made for a less robust texture but tasted great all the same. The amount of anchovies used results in a surprisingly subtle flavour, but if these pungent fishies aren’t your cup of tea then omit and add a few extra olives instead.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
(adapted from The Age – Epicure 50 Best Recipe Cards, recipe by Jill Dupleix)

·         350g spaghetti or spaghettini
·         4 tbs olive oil
·         1 garlic clove, finely sliced
·         6 anchovy fillets
·         400g can crushed tomatoes
·         2 tbs small black olives, sliced
·         1 small red chilli, deseeded and chopped
·         1 tbs small salted capers, rinsed
·         1 tbs mixed dried herbs

  1. Cook pasta in a pot of well-salted water until al dente.
  2. In the meantime heat the oil in a saucepan or frypan over medium heat and gently cook the garlic for a minute or so. Add anchovies and mash them into the oil.
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, chilli and capers and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add herbs and season to taste. Add drained pasta and toss through sauce evenly to serve.
happy cooking!


  1. mmm i love pasta and anchovies are just starting to grow on me

  2. Ooohhh! OOooooohhhhh!! I can almost imagine myself slurping the spaghetti while the heat of the chilli coats my mouth. And love that rich intense tomato sauce!!!

  3. I love anchovies - will try this for sure when the boy is out of the house (he's not too big a fan).

  4. ooh nice. Yes, I need to use more anchovies!

  5. Simple pastas like this are great mid-week. Loads of flavour and minimal fuss, yay!

  6. I was going to say I was surprised about the anchovies but they seem v popular haha
    your pasta looks lovely and spicy and tomatoey :)

  7. That looks really good! :D I love the flavour of anchovies and they would really pack a delicious punch in this sauce! :)

  8. love the recipe card challenge. You are doing well :) Great sauce, perfect with the pasta.

  9. Everyone's got a favourite pasta. Mine is the sort that is purely pasta and tomato. This looks like a great version to add!

  10. i've always found the reference to prostitutes quite strange...but it seems like most books with this recipe always refer to it!

  11. Hey Suze, if you don't mind any variety of Chinese dried, salted fish then I'm sure you can grow to like anchovies =)

    Hey Trisha, there was a nice amount of heat in the sauce which kind of perks things up a bit!

    Hey Rose, try and convert the boyfriend - this one's really not that pungent.

    Hey Fiona, the older I get the more I like them!

    Hey Ladybird, yes, great for mid-week and so easy to convert to a vegetarian dish too =)

    Hey Grace, the anchovies just add a bold, salty depth but, yes, quite tomato-ey otherwise!

    Hey Lorraine, yay for another anchovy-lover!

    Hey Ellie, the recipe card challenge is going well but you may have noticed I'm sticking to the quicker, less fiddly recipes at the moment! =p

    Hey Vickys, this is a pasta with simple fresh flavours but can so easily be adapted to incorporate other things.

    Hey Panda, don't know if the prostitute reference is an urban myth or not but I've heard 'puttana' does mean whore in Italian...

  12. Yay! Anchovies! I always have to add extra to mine, I think I'm making up for when I didn't like them when I was younger.

  13. Hey Conor, I've really grown to like them in recent years and esp so on pizza!


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