Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca – Spaghetti Whore Style

Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca – Rainer Zenz CC BY-SA 3.0
A bit of history (or folklore) of Italian cuisine…

Yes, puttanesca does mean “whore style” in Italian. I can’t help it; it’s just what the people in Naples call this tomato-based sauce. The somewhat un-p.c. name is no doubt a reference to the spicy flavors of this dish; at any rate, it’s delicious and makes for an exciting change of the pace when you’re bored with the more mundane flavors of marinara sauce.
A legend is that the name comes from the whores that prepared the spaghetti alla puttanesca dish in the little time available to them between work assignments.


  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 handful capers, soaked in water and drained
  • 2 handfuls big black olives, pitted
  • 12 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 3 small dried red chiles, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (14 ounce/400gram) cans tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 good handful fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup

How to make the Spaghetti alla puttanesca:

Cook the spaghetti in salted, boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, fry the garlic, capers, olives, anchovies, chiles, and oregano in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a lovely tomato sauce consistency.
Remove from the heat, plunge the drained spaghetti into it, toss it over, and cover with the sauce. Rip all the basil over it, correct the seasoning, and drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil: your spaghetti alla puttanesca is ready.

Serves 4

Regional recipe from Campania