One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca


One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca will transport you to the streets of Italy!

Think you can snag a man simply with the intoxicating scent of simmering tomatoes, olives & capers wafting from your kitchen window? A few “working” women in 20th century Italy certainly thought so!


Dying to share my time-saving take on the Pasta Puttanesca recipe I enjoyed last weekend at the Barilla Interactive Lunch, I did a little research on the origins of the kind of salty, kind of spicy, kind of AMAZING dish to fill you in on. Because I’m a nerd like that. What I found definitely surprised me!


Apparently Pasta Puttanesca – pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce laced with garlic, kalamata olives, capers, and parsley – was invented by a few Italian “ladies of the night” in the 1960s, who would put steaming bowls of the pungent pasta in the windows of their bordello to lure men in. Oh snap!


I can’t tell you if it’s true or not, but what I can tell you is if the scent was anywhere near as enchanting as the ones wafting from the kitchens in the Italian town of Praiano on the Amalfi Coast that Ben and I visited a couple years ago, than those men, like Ben’s sleeves, never stood a chance.

(Enchanted by a Pasta Puttanesca-esque scent coming from the kitchen of this Italian home!)


While my intentions for cooking Pasta Puttanesca tonight were a little less, colorful, shall we say, I am still totally pumped to share this simple Italian pasta recipe that’s exploding with flavor. The best part is that the pasta cooks in the same skillet as the sauce, which means there’s just one pan to clean!


Start the One-Skillet Pasta Puttanesca by assembling zee ingredients. Kalamata olives, capers, fresh parsley, anchovies (OPTIONAL!) onions, and garlic, join forces with pantry staples like dried pasta, canned tomatoes, red chili pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.


Begin by chopping 2 Tablespoons onion, 3 garlic cloves, and 1/2 cup kalamata olives, which add a salty, unforgettable flavah to the dish.


Make sure to get pitted kalamata olives, by the way. If you’re a dope like me and accidentally get unpitted, it’s fine. You can actually pit them in 2 seconds.


Just take your olive and smash it with a heavy-bottomed glass or mallet. The flesh will bust right off.


Combine the kalamata olives in a mini food processor with 1/4 cup fresh parsley, then pulse until the ingredients are roughly chopped.

DSC_0413 DSC_0415

You can totally do this by hand. I’m just lazy! (Here’s the mini food processor I have – best $50 I ever spent!)


Ok, the prep work’s done. Time to get cookin’! Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the largest skillet you own, then add the onions and garlic, along with 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, and salt & pepper.


Next, bust out the anchovy paste. Alternatively you could use 2 anchovy filets. Skip it if you must, but anchovies don’t taste “fishy” – rather, they’re kind of nutty and freaking fantastic, actually!


Annoyed at having to buy a whole tube or tin of anchovies for just this one recipe? Use the extras to make Tomato Cracked Pepper Pasta with Olive Oil and Broccoli or Surprise Broccoli Pasta!


Let the onions, garlic, chili pepper, and anchovies saute for a few minutes, then add a 28oz can petite diced tomatoes and 3 cups water to the skillet.

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Finish ‘er off with 12oz gluten-free or regular rotini pasta and 1/2 teaspoon salt.


Slap a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to high, then bring the liquid to a boil.


Turn the heat down ever so slightly to maintain a vigorous simmer, not a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions, stirring often, until it’s just under al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the heat of the pan so make sure it’s just shy of cooked at this point!


Voila! Don’t be afraid if there’s still liquid in the skillet, by the way. It will be absorbed into the pasta as it cools, which is why you want to make sure you don’t overcook it in the first place. Did that make any sense?


Turn the heat off, then add the chopped olives & parsley, along with 2 Tablespoons capers to the skillet and give it a good mixin’.


That’ll do it!


Plate the One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca, then top with an additional sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley which provides a burst of freshness amongst the boldly flavored pasta.


One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 5-6


One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca will transport you to the streets of Italy!


  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped onion (white or red)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 2 minced anchovies)
  • salt & pepper
  • 28oz can good quality petite diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 12oz dry gluten-free or regular rotini pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley + more for garnish, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons capers


  1. Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, red chili pepper flakes, and anchovy paste. Season with salt and pepper then saute until onions soften, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add petite diced tomatoes, water, pasta, and salt, then bring the liquid to a boil. Place a lid on top of the skillet then keep the pasta at medium-high heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. Cook according to package directions, stirring often, or until pasta is just shy of al dente. Do not overcook, and do not worry if there is extra liquid still in the skillet.
  3. Turn the heat off, add the olives, parsley, and capers to the skillet then stir to combine. Serve topped with freshly chopped parsley.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,


Get your portion control pants on, because your fork, like those alleged men, will want to keep wandering back to this pasta. Bite after bite just gets better and better!


The salty pieces of kalamata olives and capers dotting the pasta are like little treasures, and the amount of heat is just right.


Seriously, seriously drool worthy, and made in just one skillet. How easy is that?!


While those men couldn’t resist the scent of a steaming plate of Pasta Puttanesca for dinner, I simply cannot ignore the siren call of a caramel-filled Champ Cone for dessert. I’m off!

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  1. Your dishes lately are OUTSTANDING, girl!!!!! Get a cookbook already! ;)

  2. Jen Robertson 06.07.2012

    Kristin, I just have to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. You have a fantastic sense of humor and I think the way your blog is written shows your talent. Love the line about Ben’s sleeves! Too funny! (Not to mention, all the recipes I’ve tried have been a hit.) Keep up the good work!

  3. I agree, every recipe you’ve been posting lately has been out of this world! I’m so excited to give this one a try soon! :)

  4. This looks amazing! And I loved drooling over your pictures from Italy – I wanna gooooo!

  5. Nicole s. 06.07.2012

    Awesome links w the anchovie paste. Such a great idea!! Please continue to do that with other ingredients–I live alone and hate wasting things, so I like to use them in multiple recipes.

  6. Lindsey 06.07.2012

    Yum! Can’t wait to try this! Next year you’ll have to plant Parsley in your garden! :)

    • Iowa Girl Eats 06.07.2012

      I actually did, and realized I should have planted about FIVE considering how much I use!! :)

  7. Jim Simmons 06.07.2012

    can’t beat a 1 pan meal.this one looks really good.

  8. Lauren 06.07.2012

    Olives in pasta is incredible. Actually olives in anything is incredible.

  9. Melodie 06.07.2012

    LOL portion control pants – hilarious!!! Love your blog!! I make it a habit of telling all my girlfriends about it whenever we chat about cooking, along with hijacking their computers and bookmarking your site to their favorites whenever I’m visiting them! :)

  10. AmandaD 06.07.2012

    Just wondering what could replace the olives and their saltiness, if one does not like olives? I am the minority in my Italian family and I get teased all the time. Also, I just started drinking RED wine last year….and I’m 31.

  11. Eve P 06.07.2012

    This makes my mouth water. Too bad the grocery supply and motivation to cook is low right now since my husband and I leave for Vegas in two days. I’ll have to write myself a note to try this when I get back next week. Yum.

  12. Betsy 06.07.2012

    I’m trying this! It looks delicious.

    P.S. I have the same mini food processor and use it all the time! Worth every single penny.

  13. Kimberly 06.07.2012

    I found your blog last two weeks ago when I was looking for homemade granola bar recipes online. LOVED your version and my husband did too. Direct quote: “Could we make 100 of these and freeze them?!?” I’ve since tried three more of your recipes and everything’s fantastic. The inner goddess salad made me feel like a total health food winner. Can’t wait to try this one too! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  14. I actually throw in the whole anchovy fillets because I love them! Puttanesca is an awesome sauce!

  15. Sarah 06.08.2012

    That pasta dish looks BOMB! Your blog continues to amaze me. My girlfriends and I all talk about you – how much we love your recipes and that we don’t know how you do it ALL?!

    P.S. I love Ben’s tank top + expression. Ha!

  16. Lisa 06.08.2012

    This looks amazing. Cannot wait to try it! We are making the BBQ Chicken Quinoa salad this weekend. Yay!

  17. This looks amazing! I’m always looking for new pasta dishes! This one looks great!

  18. AbbieD 06.08.2012

    I’m going to try this as well…sans kalamata olives. Unfortunately they are on my list of things I CANNOT eat. (It’s a short list, there is only one thing on it.) I learned this the hard way…popped one right into my mouth at my 10yr H.S. reunion thinking it was a black olive. It wasn’t a black olive, and my reaction wasn’t pretty. Immediate tears and watery mouth…if you know what I mean. :(

    Hey, is there any food that you CANNOT eat? That doesn’t mean you just don’t care for it…it means you can’t eat it. It also doesn’t include foods you’re unwilling to try. While I deeply despise horseradish (wasabi included), kalamata olives are so far the only true item on my cannot eat list.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 06.08.2012

      How sad!!!! I used to be allergic to plums, but grew out of it for whatever reason and don’t have any other food allergies that I know of!

  19. Beautiful pic of Praiano! My husband and I honeymooned in/on the Amalfi Coast. Ahhh… the memories!

  20. Ruth 06.10.2012

    This looks amazing.

  21. Jeninnc 06.13.2012

    Made this last night and was kind of disappointed. I love all of the ingredients, so I thought it was a no brainer. I think the parsley threw me off… Maybe I’ll try it again without the parsley, but another bit of green-ness. Pasta – good! Olives – good! Tomatoes – good! This has got to work:).

    Love your blog!!

  22. Ashley F. 06.14.2012

    I made this tonight, and my husband could not get enough! “I’m going to have to get more of this.” “This is so freaking good!” I think it’s a keeper. Thanks for helping me look like a rockstar in the kitchen :)

  23. Amber 06.18.2012

    Made this for dinner tonight – another winner! Loved all of the saltiness. Woman, I don’t know what we’d eat around here without your blog.

  24. Jen 06.26.2012

    This dish was fantastic! Thank you for the step-by-step recipe! I had a fabulous dinner, and it took such little work! :)

  25. […] up with one fast. So I was looking at website and then I came across this recipe and I just had to make it! So I guess it paid this time to […]

  26. […] Favorite Savory- I love pasta puttanesca. It’s salty and delicious and apparently has a seedy history, even better! […]

  27. […] One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca from Iowa Girl Eats […]

  28. Silvy 07.19.2012

    I’ve made this recipe twice now for guests and it has been a big hit. So light and bursting flavourful!

  29. Matt 07.20.2012

    Love it! The pictures are breathtaking! It went in my bookmarks thanks!

  30. […] Skillet pasta puttanesca Slighlty modified from Iowa Girl Eats’ One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca […]

  31. Danielle 01.18.2013

    I made this for dinner last night and I absolutely love it. So much great flavor but so easy. I actually started a pot of water to boil the pasta in before rereading the directions since, as I told the hubs, “One pan pasta dishes never REALLY mean one pan”. But you did mean it!

    I barely made it to lunch today to dig into the leftovers!

  32. erin 01.30.2013

    Thank you for the recipe!! Such wonderful flavours, and a nice change from our usual favourite spaghetti sauce. I especially love the contrast of the fresh parsley to the salty Kalamata olives and anchovies!

  33. […] One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca […]

  34. Scibell13 01.05.2014

    I’ve made this dish twice and it was outstanding! The parsley was too much for me though so I left it out the second time. I also used slightly less olives.

    My boyfriend keeps begging me to make it again. And I will!

  35. Deanna Bushman 09.09.2014

    I’m so glad to be grown up and able to enjoy foods like this – my palate in high school would have cried at the thought of anchovies, kalamata olives, and capers lol. I had to modify it to comply with a diet my boyfriend’s dr put him on – FODMAP elimination – but it was still fantastic, imo, and I will definitely be making it again. Hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to have onions and garlic, instead of just infused oil like I used for this, so I’ll be able to try it as written. :)

  36. Jason 10.02.2014

    I have also heard that Puttanesca doesn’t have anything to do with prostitutes; rather, it is a reference to the original recipe which was made from “garbage”, which just means odds and ends found in the kitchen. It so happens that the Italian word for prostitute and garbage are the same.

  37. […] Reality: Here’s a one-skillet version of the pasta that will be ready in a flash; make this cucumber salad (same as above) while it’s cooking; […]

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