Pasta puttanesca

Contributed by Preston Maring, MD

Pasta puttanesca

One of the very first recipes I shared almost 7 years ago was a version of this basic sauce for pasta. I forgot to add anchovies then and was reminded by a number of readers. Today's offering rectifies that error.

Only some of the ingredients for this are available at your local farmers' market this time of year, but you can find most of the other needed ingredients in the non-processed food parts of your grocery store. 

At least you can find onions, garlic, herbs, and parsley where Michael Pollan suggests shopping — on the edge of the store. 

I served this over whole wheat pasta.

Servings: 4


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, diced if tomatoes are in season or one 28-ounce can no added sodium diced tomatoes with juices (a little optional red wine if the tomatoes don’t release enough juices)
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed well, and drained
  • 1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
  • 4 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta


  1. Warm the oil in a sauté pan.  
  2. Cook the onions until they begin to caramelize — about 15 minutes.  
  3. Add the garlic, anchovy, and pepper flakes. Cook briefly.  
  4. Add tomatoes, any juices, optional red wine, capers, olives, and the dried herbs if using them. Simmer until the sauce thickens.  
  5. Stir in the fresh herbs and parsley after all the cooking if you are lucky enough to have fresh herbs.  
  6. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of water. 
  8. Drain. and serve with the delicious pasta sauce.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 367
  • Total fat: 13 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 3 mg
  • Sodium: 304 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 57 g
  • Dietary fiber: 7 g
  • Total sugars: 4 g
  • Protein: 12 g