Pasta Puttanesca

First appeared in Grainews on 15 May 2018

This sauce has a risqué story attached – it might have been made by prostitutes for themselves or their clients, or perhaps by a philandering wife eager to keep her husband in the dark about how and where she spent her afternoons. Regardless, it is a quick, umami-laden and utterly yummy pasta topper. It also makes a terrific braising medium for chicken or sturdy-textured fish.


Serves 6


onions, minced


cloves garlic, chopped

1-50 g

tin anchovy filets


mushrooms, sliced

1 t.

dried basil

½ t.

dried oregano

1 t.

dried thyme

3 c.

chopped canned, fresh or frozen tomatoes

2 T.

tomato paste

1 T.

Worcestershire sauce

2 T.


½ c.

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

olive oil for the pan

cayenne and salt to taste

raw chicken or fish, in large pieces, optional

chopped parsley to taste

grated Parmesan for garnish


Sauté the onions, garlic and anchovies (oil and all) in oil until tender and the anchovies have cooked down. Add small amounts of water as needed to keep the onions from browning. Add the mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes and tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce capers and olives. Simmer until all is hot and the sauce has reduced slightly. Stir in the cayenne and salt to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Optionally, add chicken pieces or fish as desired, and continue cooking, covered, until done. Serve on pasta, topped with parsley and Parmesan.

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