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Spaghetti Puttanesca

4 Servings

25 minutes

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We think of puttanesca as a saucy dish built on anchovies. But in Naples, where it originates, two varieties of briny olives and pungent capers, not anchovies, give the dish bold savoriness that balances the sweetness of the tomatoes. We got a lesson in how to make it from Antonella Scala, who hosted pop-up dinners in her rooftop kitchen on the outskirts of modern Pompeii. We call for a generous amount of capers, which often are sold in small bottles or jars. When shopping, you will need to buy two 4-ounce bottles to get the ½ cup drained capers needed for this recipe. So that the spaghetti is extra-flavorful and each noodle is seasoned throughout, we boil it in water for just 5 minutes—it will be underdone at the center—then finish cooking it directly in the sauce.




Don't use more than 2 quarts of water to boil the pasta; the idea is to concentrate the starches in the cooking water, which is later used to thicken the sauce.

25 minutes


  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 12

    ounces spaghetti


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Carol K.
October 1, 2022
Vibrant pasta dish.
An exciting and easy pasta dish. We like the combination of olives and the generous amount of capers.
Teresa W.
February 24, 2024
Spaghetti puttaneca
I loved this recipe, it's simple quick, delicious as a weeknight meal, I added bacon to it. Thank you
Timothy H.

I love this recipe! It's the answer to 25 years of searching for a good Puttanesca recipe. QQ as to the pasta: Is this workable with homemade pasta? If I were to use home-made spaghetti, would cooking the pasta for just a minute or so provide enough starch in the cooking water?

Mark H.

I'm not getting how two 4-oz. jars of capers (rinsed, drained, dried, etc.) come out to 1/2 cup. Seems closer to 1 cup. (I'm stopping at one jar.)

Janelle C.

Hi Mark,

Once drained you'll need the extra jar to get 1/2 cup of the capers.

The Milk Street Team

Tricia S.

Three cheers for cooking with what’s in the pantry. I made this with one 4 oz. jar of capers for 16 oz. of pasta (I increased the other ingredients by 25%; adding a can of diced tomatoes to supplement the 28 oz. can of tomatoes worked well). That was plenty of capers per serving — it comes out to about 2 tsp of drained capers per each of the five servings I wound up with. I also used my pantry items and the bits of olives lurking in the fridge — some ripe, some green, the last of the kalamata. I will make it again with the full-on quantity of kalamatas, but don't be afraid to use what you have of other kinds. I minced up a few of the the soft, mellow, oil-cooked smashed garlic cloves and added them back into the sauce, too, since I like garlic. This is easy and delicious, with a wonderful texture to the pasta (I used bucatini) finished in the sauce.

Kathy S.

Made this for dinner tonight!!! OMG, so YUMMY. Since it was just the two of us I halved the recipe. Silly me, my husband and I will be fighting for the leftovers tomorrow. Never disappointed with Milk Street recipes. Please keep them coming.

Armie L.

This is so delicious and easy to make! Kept the garlic in the pan since I like the taste of garlic. Added tuna chunks in oil (can) to add some proteins. Delicious! Thank you Milk Street for the wonderful flavors and exciting recipes!

Faye B.

Wow, this is a 10! Made this last evening, inspired by the Milk Street demo. We loved the texture, flavor and just the right amount of heat. I used Spaghetti with Protein, followed the directions to a T, and will definitely make it again for a satisfying pasta dinner. Served with our homemade Caesar Salad and crusty bread, with a nice glass of Zinfandel.

John H.

Made this twice big hit with my friends and family. It would work for my vegetarian friends.

maureen s.

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Kristen S.

We’ve tried this a few times now and it’s good, and we didn’t have fresh basil so just omitted it. I love a recipe I can make with mostly pantry items on hand. I’m wondering if I could make this with whole-wheat spaghetti? How would I adjust the cooking time?

Lynn C.

Hi Kristen -

We haven't tested this with whole wheat pasta, but it's certainly worth a try! We would focus more on the visual clues in the recipe than the cooking times to ensure the whole wheat pasta doesn't get overcooked. Overcooked whole wheat pasta can turn mushy *very* quickly. Good luck!

The Milk Street Team

William D.

The basil adds a wonderful freshness to the flavour. I've made puttanesca many times and didn't even notice the absence of anchovies. Savory and delicious. 10!

Ruthanne R.

I’ve never made Puttanesca with anchovies. It’s always been pretty much this recipe. I got it from one of Lidia’s cookbooks. No basil though.

christine d.

This has replaced my old stand-by recipe that used crushed tomatoes. I love that I always have the ingredients in the pantry for a night with little time, energy or inspiration.

Michael M C.

I’ve made this twice and it’s pretty tasty. Only used one jar of capers.