Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, a simple but tasty first course with a bizarre name

Simple and colorful: spaghetti alla puttanesca

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is a typical dish of Neapolitan cuisine tradition. They can also be called aulive e chiapparielle (olives and capers in Neapolitan dialect). It is a first course prepared with tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic, Gaeta’s olive, capers, and oregano. Spaghetti alla puttanesca is an easy dish to prepare but with an exceptional taste. There are no variations of this recipe, but everyone adds or removes some ingredients according to one’s taste. For example, in the Lazio region, people add salted anchovies to the sauce. Somebody add peppers, chili, cucumbers, parsley, cherry tomatoes and tuna, and many others.


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A bit of history of this dish

The original recipe is contested between Lazio and Campania, but it is so good that it has become well known all over Italy. There are many legends linked to this recipe, some say that the name of this recipe came from the owner of a dating house (“puttanesca” would derive from “puttana” which means whore) in the Quartieri Spagnoli at the beginning of the century, who used to feed his guests with this dish adding chilli and taking advantage of its quick and easy preparation. Others trace it back to the culinary fantasies of Totò. Others trace the first spaghetti alla puttanesca to Ischia in the famous Rangio Fellone restaurant in the 1950s. Here, one evening, this quick and somewhat improvised preparation with what was left in the pantry, saw the light of day. The term ‘alla puttanesca’ would indicate exactly this improvised, easy, and very quick preparation.

The recipe


  • 800 g tomato sauce
  • 320 g spaghetti
  • 100 g Gaeta’s olive
  • 10 g capers
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 25 g  anchovies
  • chilli
  • oil
  • salt

To prepare this recipe first of all you have to rinse the capers under water to remove extra salt, then dry them and chop them roughly with a knife. Take the pitted Gaeta olives and crush them with the blade of a knife. Wash and dry the parsley and chop it. Bring a pan full of water to boil. Meanwhile, in a pan pour the oil, and add the garlic, the chopped chilli, the anchovies, and the capers. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. After this time, pour in the tomato sauce, stir with a spoon and cook for a further 10 minutes over medium heat. In the meantime, cook spaghetti al dente. When the sauce will be ready, take out the garlic, and add the olives and parsley. Drain spaghetti and place them into the sauce and stir to mix everything. Serve the spaghetti alla puttanesca hot and enjoy them!


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Cover photo by Popo le Chien, CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons