Spaghetti with Streetwalker’s Sauce

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:



Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

This sauce, said to be from the island of Ischia (off the coast of Naples), has become popular not only in Naples but in all of Italy and even abroad. The name puttanesca, usually translated somewhat less delicately than “streetwalker,” comes from the fact that the ladies of the night, after whom this sauce is named, had little time to shop and had to rely on ingredients such as olives and anchovies that would keep without spoiling. Or so the story goes.


extra-virgin olive oil ¼ cup 60 ml
garlic cloves, crushed to a paste 2 2
dried peperoncini, chopped or red pepper flakes 2 tsp or 2 tsp 10 ml or 10 ml
anchovy fillets, drained, patted dry, coarsely chopped 24 24
plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped lb 675 g
brine-cured (not oil-cured) black olives such as gaeta, pitted, coarsely chopped, about 60 6 oz 175 g
capers, drained ¼ cup 60 ml
dried spaghetti or other strand pasta or fresh strand pasta such as fettuccine or linguine 1 lb or lb 450 g or 675 g
salt to taste to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil for cooking the pasta.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, and stir in the garlic, peperoncini, and anchovies. Let the garlic sizzle for about 1 minute, then stir in the tomatoes, olives, and capers.
  3. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water while continuing to stir the sauce over medium heat. Season the sauce with salt—it may not need any because of the olives and anchovies. Drain the spaghetti when al dente and toss with the sauce.