Pasta Puttanesca

As a child, my favorite snack was licking a pile of salt out of the palm of my hand. So it makes sense that puttanesca is my pasta sauce of choice — it’s an ode to the wonders of salt.

The recipe takes basic tomato sauce and revs it up with anchovies, garlic, chili flakes, capers, and olives. I add beans to mine, which I recommend). The whole dish can be made with non-perishables, making it an excellent quarantine meal. But feel free to throw in any fresh veggies that are lying around.

Fun Fact to Impress Your Friends During Virtual Happy Hours: “Putta” is italiano for prostitute. Some say the name comes from its pungent aromas ?. Others say it was a staple served after services rendered at Neapolitan brothels. 


  • 1/2 pound pasta (I like rigatoni for this sauce)
  • 1 12 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked white beans, such as cannellini (cook dried beans or use canned. Be sure to rinse canned beans of their goo.)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 anchovy fillets (optional, but you really should…)
  • handful of olives, roughly chopped
  • palmful of capers
  • red chili flakes
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • honey (or sugar or maple syrup)
  • optional: cooked veggies like green beans or broccoli
  • optional: fresh basil and/or dried oregano
  • optional: parmesan


  • In a pot large enough to fit all the pasta, warm a glug of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Once it starts to smell fragrant — but well before it turns brown — add anchovies , a generous pinch (or three) of red chili flakes, and a generous pinch of dried oregano. After another minute or two of sizzling, add the crushed tomatoes. Turn heat up to medium high. Add a glug of honey and a small pinch of salt. Be conservative with salting, as the other ingredients will add plenty of saltiness to the sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken over medium heat while the pasta cooks.
  • To cook pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once it boils, add enough salt to the water so that it tastes like the ocean. Cook pasta until al dente. Strain, saving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
  • Stir in to sauce the pasta cooking water, olives, and capers. Allow to cook for a minute of two. Taste and adjust as needed (Too acidic? Add more honey. Too salty? More pasta water). 
  • Add beans, pasta, and veggies to sauce. Stir and cook for a few more minutes, so the pasta absorbs the flavor of the sauce.
  • Serve with freshly grated parmesan and torn pieces of fresh basil.


Hot tip: have some crusty bread on hand to sop up extra sauce.