Think you can snag a man simply with the intoxicating scent of simmering tomatoes, olives & capers wafting from your kitchen window? A few 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 the 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 pitted kalamata olives, which add a salty, unforgettable flavor to the dish.
Combine the kalamata olives in a mini food processor with 1/4 cup fresh parsley, then pulse until the ingredients are roughly chopped.
You can totally do this by hand. I’m just lazy!
Time to cook. 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 savory and salty. Yum!
Squirt 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 2 mined filets) into the skillet.
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.
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.
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One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, http://iowagirleats.com.
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?!
join the conversation
barbara mckee 12.04.2015
I love your food. I am a good cook also. I live 3 months a year in Praiano. Thanks for making me “home-sick”.
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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.
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. :)
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!
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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!
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!
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Love it! The pictures are breathtaking! It went in my bookmarks thanks!
I’ve made this recipe twice now for guests and it has been a big hit. So light and bursting flavourful!
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This dish was fantastic! Thank you for the step-by-step recipe! I had a fabulous dinner, and it took such little work! :)
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.
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 :)
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!!