Pasta Puttanesca

A punchy, umami forward pasta that can be made with mostly pantry staples.

2-4 servings

Time: 20 mins

By Keith McBrayer

This recipe breakdown originally appeared in The Mouthful, our weekly food newsletter for the curious home cook.

Keith McBrayer

Keith McBrayer



  • The sauce

    • olive oil
      2 spoonfuls30 g
    • garlic
      , thinly sliced
      3-4 cloves
    • anchovies
    • olives
      a handful100 g
    • capers
      2 spoonfuls30 g
    • cherry tomatoes
      , halved
      2 handfuls200 g
  • The pasta & garnish

    • spaghetti
      340 g12 oz / .75 lb
    • parsley
      , minced


Step 1: Boil the pasta

Bring a pot of water to a . While you wait, gather all remaining ingredients.

  • No salt is needed in the water since you can finish cooking the pasta in the sauce which has many salty elements.

Add the pasta to the water and set a timer according to package directions - minus 2 minutes (or go until just before al dente).

Step 2: Sauté the sauce base

In the meantime, set a large sauté pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add in the garlic slices and until fragrant but not colored.

Add in the anchovies, capers, and olives and for 1-2 minutes until the anchovies begin to dissolve into the oil.

  • Bonus points: add in the oil from the anchovy tin for extra flavor!

Add the halved cherry tomatoes and sauté until they begin to break down and release their juices. Optionally, cover the pan to the tomatoes and help them break down faster.

Step 3: Drain & add the pasta

When the pasta timer is up and the noodles have mostly finished cooking (just before al dente), use tongs to transfer the noodles into the pan with the sauce base.

  • You can drain the noodles in a colander, just be sure to reserve some of the pasta water.

Toss and cook the pasta with the sauce base until the noodles are fully cooked through, the tomatoes have broken down, and the sauce coats the noodles.

  • If the sauce becomes too tight before the noodles have cooked through, adjust with a splash of pasta water.

Step 4: Finish & serve

Once the noodles are cooked through and the sauce has reached your desired consistency, turn off the heat.

Taste the dish. Adjust with salt, if needed, or garnish with extra anchovies/capers/olives for more salinity. Top with parsley and serve warm.



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