Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti all Puttanesca

Various accounts exist as to when and how the dish originated, my preference is this one:

It comes from Annarita Cuomo who asserted that sugo alla puttanesca was invented in the 1950s by Sandro Petti, co-owner of Rancio Fellone, a famous Ischian restaurant and nightspot. According to Cuomo, Petti's moment of inspiration came when being near closing one evening, Petti found a group of customers sitting at one of his tables. He was low on ingredients and so told them he didn't have enough to make them a meal. They complained that it was late and they were hungry. "Facci una puttanata qualsiasi," which translates in "Make any kind of garbage,". Petti had nothing more than four tomatoes, two olives and some capers, some of the basic ingredients for sugo (tomato sauce), So he used them to make the sauce for the spaghetti. And, with that, spaghetti alla puttanesca were born.

Two classic versions exist, one from Napoli (Naples) without anchovies and one from Lazio with anchovies. My preference goes to the Neapolitan version as I do not like the fishy taste of anchovies in the sauce.

Cooking time around 20 minutes.

Serving 4 people


1) 1 pound of dry spaghetti – around 500 gr

2) 4 table spoons of virgin olive oil

3) 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped

4) 2 chili peppers

5) ½ cup of sliced black olives

6) 1 can (28 ounces) of peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes

7) Salt and freshly grounded pepper, to taste

8) ½ cup of chopped Italian parsley

9) 4 filets of anchovies finely chopped (optional)

10) parmigiano reggiano on the side (optional)


1) Bring a pot of water to boil. When boiling add salt to taste, add and cook pasta following package instructions, stir occasionally, but be sure to keep it al dente (do not overcook)

2) While water is boiling and pasta is cooking prepare the sauce in a large skillet over a medium heat:

a. add olive oil

b. If using anchovies add them now (optional)

c. add garlic and cook/sauté for few minutes or until garlic is golden

d. add chili pepper, do not brake it so it can be easily removed later if necessary

e. add capers

f. add olives

g. toss to combine and cook for 1 minute

h. add peeled or crushed tomatoes (if peeled brake them while cooking), reduce the heat, season with salt and pepper to taste

i. add half of the parsley and toss to combine

j. cook until pasta is ready (al dente), about 10/12 minutes

3) When pasta is al dente, transfer it into the sauce using tongs

4) Toss pasta with the sauce and finish cooking for about 2 minutes

5) Serve immediately garnishing the dish with the remaining chopped parsley and parmigiano reggiano on the side (if you use anchovies it is not recommended)

6) Buon appetito (enjoy your meal)

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11 Jan 2020

By Vito Russo