Pasta alla Puttanesca is arguably one of the most classic pasta dishes, both in Italy and around the world and one of my absolute favorites to cook and eat. It’s pungent and rich in traditional Mediterranean flavors like olives, capers, tomatoes and oregano, so much so that is impossible not to love it!
According to tradition, this pasta dish was created on the island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, one night around 100 years ago, when a group of hungry people entered into a local restaurant asking for something to eat. As it was really late, the owner took what he had on hand, cooked everything together and created this recipe on the spot. It came out so delicious that nowadays it is one of the most traditional pasta recipes from Naples and surroundings!
As Pasta alla Puttanesca is really simple to make and uses just a handful of ingredients, it is not usually found in restaurants. On the other hand, I can assure you that if you are invited for lunch or dinner at a real Neapolitan house, you will have a fair chance to eat it as the first course of your meal. The sauce is salty, tangy and fragrant and has a pretty strong flavor that always reminds me of its Parthenopean origin: absolutely delicious! It is usually served over spaghetti pasta, but linguine, bucatini and reginette work just as well.
If you are not a great fan of anchovies you can leave them out of the recipe and you will still get an extremely tasty pasta dish. However, I encourage you to try it the traditional way as it might surprise you. In fact, when you cook anchovy fillets in olive oil on low heat they basically dissolve leaving behind just a wonderful mild flavor.
Pasta Puttanesca, Weight Loss and Health
When most of us think of pasta, we usually don’t associate it with losing weight. However, by eating traditional pasta recipes from the Mediterranean, pasta dishes can totally fit into a weight loss diet. Pasta in the Mediterranean is typically served with lots of vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and less pasta than a typical pasta dish served in America. Also, the pasta is prepared al dente, which lowers its glycemic index, effecting blood sugar levels much, much less.
This traditional recipe from Italy includes tuna, which is a great source of healthy protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Adding more tuna into your diet is awesome for weight loss. The abundance of protein in tuna fills you up and reduces cravings.
More traditional Italian recipes from Giorgia Fontana
Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce – Spaghetti alla Portofino
Pesto Genovese (Traditional Italian Pesto)
Pasta alla Puttanesca with Canned Tuna (Italy)
- 6 oz dried pasta long varieties work best
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 dried chili pepper minced (or more, according to your taste)
- 3 anchovy fillets in oil
- 1/8 cup white wine
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 tbsp brined capers
- 1/4 cup black olives
- 5 oz canned tuna in oil drained
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it starts boiling, add salt and cook pasta according with package directions.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a large frying pan add olive oil, chili pepper and anchovy fillets. Turn on the heat on medium-low and stir for a few seconds until the anchovies are completely dissolved.
- Turn the heat on medium, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes so that they start to turn translucent.
- Deglaze the bottom of the pan with white wine and wait for it to be absorbed.
- Add cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and canned tuna. Cook on medium-low for 8 to 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too dry, you can add half a ladleful of pasta water.
- When pasta is al dente, drain it and transfer it to the pan with the sauce along with oregano.
- Toss everything together for 60 seconds, then turn off the heat and serve.
I’ve made this twice now. I don’t love it with the tuna, but I used Skipjack, not albacore. I think next time I’ll try it with some chicken or Italian sausage. I always load my spaghetti sauce with capers and kalamatas, but with the fresh tomatoes it’s amazing. I also throw fresh spinach leaves in at the end to add nutritional value and color if I’m not going to have a salad with it. Overall, it’s delicious!
And the aromas while it’s cooking add to die for!
This dish is absolutely fabulous! This will be a constant in my life! The flavors just explode in your mouth!
One of our all time favorites too. Thank you for the comment!
I wish I could give this more than 5 stars. This dish was absolutely delicious, and I know it is going to be made a lot in our house.
I’ve made the puttanesca recipe in the past using a canned spaghetti sauce but his one is great with fresh whole tomatoes! This will be the standard from now on! I’m looking forward to losing some weight on the diet plan starting in January!
First recipe I have made from this site. Add chopped spinach at the end, but other than that, this will be part of our weekly rotation.
Don’t throw out the canned tuna oil! Use it to saute the onion.
Made this for the second time Sunday night. Other than substituting canned yellowtail for the tuna and using sliced kalamata olives instead of black ones, it was more or less according to recipe. I put it away for later, but the mouthful Leslie and I both had was sublime! I never knew you could have pasta on a weight loss program, and this I believe is going to be our favorite pasta recipe going forward.
I used to cook this recipe (minus the anchovies), when I was just starting my career in London. It was obviously a cheap meal but one of my favorites. And I often made it for friends and served it with garlic bread and a red wine.
I had to substitute a couple pantry items… so I used Banza chickpea spaghetti, green olives, no anchovies, canned diced tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. It came out delicious! Definitely recommend this recipe.
It just smelled so good as my husband was cooking it. I couldn’t wait to taste it! Delicious!!!
I used to make this. Now I have to watch sodium and saturated fats for myself and who I cook for, but I can just rinse the anchovies, olives and capers as they remain pretty salty I think. And if topped with a bit Parmesan that adds a bit of salt back too. Can’t wait to make again as it’s been awhile!
Hi Michele, This is low in saturated fats and as far as salt, I simply don’t add any other salt when I make it. You can get low sodium tuna and also, as you said, rinse the salty items.