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A bowl of pasta tossed with puttanesca sauce.

The Simplest Puttanesca Sauce


Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

If you are sensitive to salt, this may not be the dish for you, but cutting back the quantities of capers, anchovies and olives would reduce the saltiness. Also, a splash of heavy cream never hurts.

Most recently I made this with Cascatelli, the new pasta shape created by Dan Pashman of The Sporkful podcast, and I have to say it did such a wonderful job of catching all of the irresistible bits of capers and olives in this dish. 

Most recently, I smashed the cloves of garlic, and even after the hour of cooking, they didn’t really break down as I had hoped — they were very large, too, which may have been part of the problem. Next time, I would mince or slice the cloves before adding. The original recipe calls for crushed garlic, which might mean through a garlic press, in which case the garlic would be very finely chopped. 


  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I use 1/4 cup now)
  • 1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, undrained
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed, see notes
  • one 28-ounce can San Marzano plum tomatoes
  • 1 jar (2.5 ounces) or 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup black or kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound pasta, such as campanelle, orecchiette or other, see notes


  1. Place all ingredients with the exception of the pasta in large pot or wide-mouthed sauté pans. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every so often — you need something like a potato masher or flat-bottomed whisk or wooden spoon to gently crush the tomatoes as well as the garlic cloves every so often. The anchovies dissolve on their own, but the tomatoes and garlic need assistance.
  2. Boil pasta — no need to salt the water — drain, and toss with sauce.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American, Italian

Keywords: pasta, puttanesca, olives, capers, anchovies, garlic