In the time it takes to boil spaghetti, you can have a healthy vegetarian pasta meal on the table. Traditional Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is an easy pasta meal with all the flavors of the Mediterranean including the best tomatoes, garlic, capers and olives.

Twirling a bite of spaghetti onto a fork

This is essentially a tomato sauce spaghetti with olives, capers and anchovies. Let’s talk anchovies. If you don’t like them don’t worry, you will not taste them, I promise. I can’t get my husband to eat anything remotely fishy and he loves this dish. The anchovies do add amazing, savory flavor to the sauce and therefore are a must!

Spaghetti alla puttanesca viewed from overhead

The olives, which are another important component, give the dish its distinct look. Traditionally Italian Gaeta olives are used, but they are harder to find, so Greek Kalamata olives are the closest substitute, which are similar in look and flavor.

A closeup of spaghetti puttanesca with kalamata olives, tomato and chopped parsley

This pasta puttanesca is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet and the perfect 30 minute meal. There’s a reason why the Italians and Greek are healthy and live long lives. It is due to using good quality ingredients and good fats.

What does puttanesca mean? 

Translates to a not very nice word. Let’s just say it originated in brothels. You should probably Google it!

How do you pronounce puttanesca?


Where this is a vegetarian/pescatarian dish, you can also make this vegan puttanesca by leaving out the anchovies, or substitute with red miso paste.

A bowl of spagehetti with tomato sauce, olives and capers

The most important part of this pasta dish is the whole tomatoes that make up the sauce. San Marzano are the gold standard when it comes to canned/tinned tomatoes.  These famous tomatoes originate from Naples in the Campania region of Italy.  There are some imposters out there that say they are San Marzano, but they are not so be cautious.

A can of Italian San Marzano Tomatoes showing the authenticity label

San Marzano tomatoes are the gold standard when it comes to quality that originate from Naples in the Campania region of Italy. They must have a D.O.P certification on the label and have symbols that say ‘denominazione d’origine protetta’ and ‘pomodoro s. marzano dell’agro sarnese-nocerino’ which denotes they are protected by law along with an assigned number (see pic above). If it has all of this and the label is in Italian, you’re good to go.

Where it comes to the type of pasta used, spaghetti is the traditional pasta used for puttanesca. Besides, slurping a delicious plate of spaghetti is always such good fun!

Yield: 4

Traditional Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Shiny black olives, tomato and parsley with spaghetti in a white bowl

Italian tomatoes are cooked with anchovies, capers and kalamata olives mixed with spaghetti.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 28 ounces (400 grams) San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 anchovy filets (in olive oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup (150 grams) Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons of capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (to your spice level)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 pound (453 grams) spaghetti 
  • Fresh parsley, chopped


  1. Add the tomatoes to a large bowl and crush with hands to break up the tomatoes, removing any tough stems. Set aside.
  2. Add water to a large pan to cook the spaghetti and bring to a boil.
  3. To a large skillet/frying pan add the oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies (drained from the olive oil) to the pan and cook until they start to melt breaking up as needed. Add the garlic, olives and capers and pepper flakes.
  4. Add a little salt to the boiling water and add spaghetti. Cook according to the directions, about 9-11 minutes.
  5. While the spaghetti cooks, add the tomatoes to the anchovies, olives and caper, stir well to combine. Bring to a slight bubble and cook for 10 minutes until thickened. Taste and add salt.
  6. Once the spaghetti is ready, use tongs to transfer right to the sauce. Add a little pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.
  7. Serve immediately topped with parsley.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 364Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 24mgSodium 540mgCarbohydrates 43gFiber 4gSugar 7gProtein 15g

This nutrition calculation is provided by Nutronix that is only a guideline and not intended for any particular diet.