Saucy Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Even long before I first got a chance to eat this red, saucy(pun intended), spicy, Pasta dish, I knew it would be delicious and I'd love it forever. I was watching tv one day, when I was really young, in my teens and I heard an Italian woman talking about this pasta dish. The way she said the name of the dish had me captivated. The stressing on the 'tt' of the 'spaghetti' and 'puttanesca' and the way the words rolled off her tongue- so endearing ...well that was my first brush with the now very familiar pasta. I don't think I saw her cook it though...or maybe I did and I just don't remember. Now that would have been an even better memory, I reckon.

Alright, so for those people who aren't familiar with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, I'll simplify it. It means spaghetti (long. thin, cylindrical pasta about 20-25 cms long) with puttanesca sauce (whore style sauce). I know, shocking, right?! The name of the sauce is derived from the Italian word for whore -puttana which just means that the sauce is easy, quick, spicy and hot. 

Sophie Dahl even goes on to say "Whore's pasta was ever a name so perfectly suited to a dish? It's edgy, spicy and just the right side of wrong, conjuring up visions of neapolitan streets and dangerous women in tight dresses" 

There's also a different theory that prostitutes in Italy used to make this sauce and put the pot of cooked spaghetti on the window sill to attract their 'customers'. Its upto you to chose whatever theory you want to go with. But I'll guarantee you this, the sauce WILL make your day! 

So now that you do know what we are about to make, be sure you add that last pinch of chilli to make it especially spicy.

The traditional version of the Puttanesca uses anchovies that melt in the sauce and you don't even realise that they are there. I couldn't get my hands on anchovies. Also if in case you didn't like anchovies, you can skip them. Some people like to use parsley. I've had both the varieties and I personally prefer the basil one over the parsley. It sort of cuts through all the heat and adds an element of freshness to the dish. Again, adapt it according to whatever tickles your taste-buds.

Oh and what makes this pasta even better is the pan-seared chicken that we add to it. So delish! Try it out and you'll know what I'm talking about. 

Serves: 3-4

Complexity: ***

Time taken: 35-40 mins

You'll need

1 lb/500 gms spaghetti or linguine
4-5 garlic cloves chopped finely
8-10 whole red tomatoes (you can blanch and peel them, I left them as they were) or around 1 1/2 can of roma tomatoes
2 tbsp drained capers
3 tbsp black pitted olives, sliced
2-3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp of sugar
10-12 leaves of basil , torn in halves or quarters with your hands
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
water for boiling
Pinch of love

For pan seared chicken

2 chicken breasts, skinless and evenly pound
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Marinate chicken on the oil, herbs and seasoning over night or for 1 hour min for maximum flavour.


Heat the olive oil in a pan. Take a pan that has depth so you can toss the spaghetti in it once the sauce is done. We don't want to miss out on those tasty chicken juices so we will sear the chicken in this pan itself. 

Add your chicken breasts and sear them for 3 mins each side or depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. We want the chicken to be slightly golden brown on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. Nothing worse than a chewy, over cooked chicken breast. Take them out of the pan. You see those amazing juices at the bottom of the pan? That's what is going to add extra flavour to your sauce.

Now add the chopped garlic to the oil and saute it for about 30 secs till it turns golden in colour. 

Make sure your flame is on medium because you don't want the garlic to burn otherwise it will turn bitter. Add your drained capers. Here's a neat trick, smash half the capers with the back of a fork or a wooden spoon. That helps releases the flavour better. Saute for another 30 secs. 

Meanwhile take the tomatoes, chop off the heads and put them all in a blender to make a lumpy paste. Add that to the sauteed garlic and capers. Add the sugar to it to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Let them simmer for 10 mins on medium flame. Make sure you cover the pan with a lid.

While you let the tomatoes simmer, make the spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet. Don't forget to add the olive oil so it doesn't stick and enough salt to the water. Quick tip: Always boil the pasta for a minute less than what it says on the packet. It will be perfectly al dente( firm to bite) when its ready to eat because it continues to cook when its tossed in the sauce. Drain the spaghetti. 

The tomato sauce should be cooked by now and even reduced a little. Add the rest of the ingredients including the herbs and seasoning with the hot chilli flakes except the chicken and pasta. Add the drained spaghetti in the sauce, and toss well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if required. 

Slice the grilled chicken and serve along the pasta. You can toss it along the spaghetti in the sauce or keep it separate. Garnish with parmesan and a few fresh basil leaves. Your Pasta all puttanesca is ready to eat! Indulge!! :)) 


  1. Look so yummy...& beautiful captures too...visit me @

  2. Nice Post!! Might have to try it in the future since you did such a good job explaining the directions. Wish I could just order this now =)

  3. Amy, thanks for the compliments...Will check out your blog as well! :) Thanks for visiting and do keep coming back.

  4. Justine, your kind words flatter me :) Please try making this since its so easy and delicious ofcourse! Oh n don't forget to tell me how it comes out! :)


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