Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

  • Servings: 6 – 2 1/2 cup
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Create a light and spicy authentic Italian puttanesca sauce with pasta in just minutes.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


non-aerosol olive oil cooking spray
3 to 4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
1/8 to ¼ tsp. red chili flakes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 to 2 tbsp. Fresno or red jalapeño pepper, finely minced – optional   
8 anchovy fillets (1 2-oz. can) – optional
3 tbsp. capers – optional
1 28‑oz. can chopped tomatoes or 2 lb. fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded,
and chopped
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
½ cup water, light bodied red, or white wine
½ cup domestic or Mediterranean black olives, sliced
¼ cup fresh basil, shredded or chopped (or ½  tbsp. dry)
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups cooked capellini (angel hair) or spaghettini pasta (12 oz. dry pasta)
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese


I. Rinse anchovies, pat dry with paper towel, coarsely chop, and set aside. Rinse capers in cold water, drain well and set aside.

2. Lightly spray the surface of a large stick-resistant skillet or stock pot with cooking spray and heat on medium high for 2 minutes. Sauté garlic, onions, and chili flakes, together until onions become tender, 3 to 4 minutes. If using, also add anchovies.

3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, choice of olives, and water or wine to pan and bring to gentle boil, stirring often. If using, also add capers. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes to an hour. At the end of cooking time, stir in olive oil and basil.

4. While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to boil add pasta. Stirring often, cook pasta until al dente (still somewhat firm) according to package directions.

5. Drain pasta well, divide into six 1 cup portions and top with 1 ½ cups sauce and 1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese.


Nutrition Information: 6 – 2 ½ cup servings at 350 calories; 8g fat; 13g protein; 57g carbohydrate; 5g fiber; 8mg cholesterol; 612mg sodium.

Original Nutrition Information: 6 – 3½ cup servings at 632 calories; 26g fat; 25g protein;
76g carbohydrate; 6g fiber; 16mg cholesterol; 956mg sodium.

Healthy Cooking Tips and Techniques

1. To begin, this dish is traditionally high in sodium, so we start out by rinsing both the anchovies and capers to remove the excess salt from the capers and salt and oil from the anchovies because both are extremely high in sodium.

2. In this version of Puttenesca, we spray the pan lightly with olive oil cooking spray and sauté the onions, garlic, peppers, and anchovies on medium high heat rather than high. By sautéing on a lower heat, the ingredients cook in their own juices, omitting the need for added fats. Traditionally, this would be ¼ cup olive oil or more to prevent the food from drying out, sticking, or burning. Sautéing on a lower heat reduces the amount of fat in the sauce by at least 56 grams, (14 grams per serving).

3. Once the vegetables are tender, we add the canned tomatoes which are also very high in sodium, however, we offset this by using tomato paste rather than sauce in this recipe. Always use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce is liquefied tomato paste with a high amount of salt added for flavor. Tomato paste is pureed tomatoes reduced to a thick paste with nothing else added. It’s less expense and you get more tomato flavor for your money with paste.

4. The pasta is cooked al dente without added salt or oil. Instead we use a large pot of water so that the pasta can move freely and stir it often. Pasta sticks together not because you don’t add oil to the cooking water, but because there is not enough water to cook the pasta, and it isn’t being stirred often enough.

5. At the end of cooking time we stir in one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the fresh basil. The extra virgin olive oil gives the sauce that traditional rich olive oil finish without the extra fat sautéing the vegetables would have given it.

6. The basil is added at the end of cooking time gives the sauce a brighter basil note. Basil when exposed to cooking heat, simmering, etc., loses flavor, so for all dishes add basil at the end of cooking time.

7. There is no salt added to the recipe ingredients in this recipe, because often it’s not needed given the high sodium content of the main ingredients. However, ingredient sodium contents can vary, so taste and if necessary, add a pinch or two of salt.

8. Each serving includes 1 cup of pasta rather than 1½, helping to keep the simple carbohydrates in check and the portion healthy and topped with 1 to ½ cups of sauce.

9. Finally, the pasta is topped one tablespoon of fresh grated Asiago or your choice of Italian hard cheese rather than the 4 tablespoons we so often use. The great thing about fresh hard Italian cheese is that it’s flavor dense, giving it more flavor than pre-grated. In other words, a little goes farther. 

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