Penne Alla Puttanesca

Penne alla Puttanesca is the perfect pasta dish to make when you want to switch up the usual tomato sauce. Traditionally, it's made with anchovies, capers and olives - all very salty ingredients, so make sure you taste it before adding salt! In some parts of Italy, it's made without anchovies, which is the way I actually like to make it. Of course, like most Italian dishes, there are many variations of this recipe. This is just the way I like to make it, but as always, feel free to tweak it the way you like it. Sometimes I even add a spritz of lemon at the end. The best part of this dish is that this recipe uses ingredients that are probably already in your pantry and you can whip it up in less than 25 minutes.

penne alla puttanesca

You may have heard that 'Puttanesca' translates to the word prostitute in Italian and there are a lot of different stories out there that explain the name of the dish but we don't need to get into that! Although some sources say that the sauce was originally from Rome, it is most commonly associated with Naples, which is also the birthplace of pizza.

sugo alla puttanesca

Although Sugo alla Puttanesca is traditionally served with spaghetti, I love making it with penne pasta. Comment below and let me know what your version is of this recipe!

This recipe is both vegetarian and vegan (if you leave out the Parmesan).

Servings: 5-6


2 Tbs olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 can of San Marzano tomatoes or plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/4 cup of pitted black olives

2 tbs of capers, rinsed

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1 lb of penne pasta or spaghetti

salt & pepper to taste (easy on the salt!)

Fresh Parmesan to top


  • Fill a large pot of water over medium-high heat with 2 tbs of salt for the pasta while you cook the sauce.

  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and stir in garlic and red pepper flakes, about one minute.

  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook on medium-low heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add capers and olives and cook for one additional minute. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

  • Once the pasta is ready and al dente, drain and add to the sauce with 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water. Add the parsley and toss until well coated.

  • Serve with fresh grated Parmesan on top.

Looking for more vegan/vegetarian pastas? Try my traditional Pesto alla Genovese:

pesto alla genovese

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