Pasta alla Puttanesca

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Welcome to Claire's: 35 Years of Recipes and Reflections from the Landmark Vegetarian Restaurant

Welcome to Claire's

By Claire Criscuolo

Published 2014

  • About

We used to joke with our mom whenever she made puttanesca sauce because in Italian, puttana means harlot, or a lady of the streets. The story goes that these women were very busy and eager to get back to their business so they made a quick sauce. Really, we always believed they’d be back to business faster with, say, a marinara. This always made my mother laugh and blush.


  • Sea salt
  • 14.5 ounces whole wheat spaghetti or other pasta
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into thin ribs
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 10 fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup whole black olives, drained
  • 1 cup whole Spanish pimento-stuffed green olives, drained
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained (if you’re using salted capers, rinse and squeeze out excess moisture)
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes in juice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, if desired


  1. Set a colander with a 1 cup measure in the sink for later in the recipe. Putting the cup in the colander will help you remember to reserve the cooking water you’ll need.
  2. Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a covered pot over high heat. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Turn the drained pasta into a serving bowl.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallots, onion, artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, oregano, black and green olives, and capers. Stir to combine. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are light brown but not burned.
  4. Turn the tomatoes and juice into a bowl. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes, then add them to the pot. Add the wine, the reserved cooking liquid, and a little sea salt and pepper—go easy on the salt because the olives and capers tend to be salty. Stir well to combine. Cover and bring to a medium boil, stirring frequently.
  5. Cook at a medium boil for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce reduces slightly. Taste for seasoning. Pour three-fourths of the sauce evenly over the spaghetti. Using two spoons, toss to coat and separate the spaghetti strands. Top with remaining sauce. Taste for seasoning. Serve topped with grated Parmesan or pecorino, if desired.