Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Have you ever asked anyone, why this dish has this name in Italian? Spaghetti alla puttanesca, literally  “spaghetti in the garbage style” or “spaghetti in the whore’s style” is a tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish invented in the mid-20th century. The sauce alone is called sugo alla puttanesca in Italian. Recipes may differ according to preferences; for instance the Neapolitan version is prepared without anchovies, unlike the version popular in Lazio, and chili peppers are sometimes added. In most cases, however, the sugo is a little salty from the capers, olives, and anchovies and quite fragrant from the garlic. Traditionally, the sauce is served with spaghetti, although it also goes well with penne, bucatini, linguine and vermicelli. But Jamie’s spaghetti alla puttanesca recipe is full of anchovies, garlic, tomatoes and chilli, thus a perfect combination.


The sauce which contains garlic, anchovies, capers, chillies and olives is quite a lot for any wine to handle, we would recommend, given the base is cooked tomatoes, would be for a southern Italian red wine.

*Sicilian and southern Italian reds such as Nero D’avola, Negroamara and Primitivo

*Inexpensive Zinfandel

*Barbera – from Northern Italy or elsewhere – always a good wine with a rustic dish

*Inexpensive Portuguese reds from the Alentejo – ripe and supple, they make a good stand-in for an Italian red

*and if you fancy a white try a crisp southern Italian white such as Falanghina or Greco


  • 400 g dried spaghetti

  • olive oil

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped

  • 2 fresh red chillies, sliced (seeds in)

  • a small handful of black olives, destoned

  • 2 handfuls very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

  • a small bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked

  • Parmesan cheese, to serve


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, place a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add a good lug of olive oil, followed by the garlic, anchovy and chilli. Tear in the olives and stir for 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden and the anchovies melt into the base. Add the cherry tomatoes, a good splash of pasta water and cover with a lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cherry tomatoes start to cook down slightly.

Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water. Add the basil to the sauce along with the pasta and a splash of the reserved cooking water, to loosen. Have a taste and season if needed. Transfer to a serving platter and top with a good shaving of fresh Parmesan.


Recipe source: Jamie Oliver

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