pasta olives tomatoes capers

Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers Puttanesca

In a hurry for dinner?  Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name.  Nobody really knows why.  One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.  Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.

Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.

Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and nutty Niçoise olives. 

Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).  I always thought Niçoise  olives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.  Niçoise is just the method of curing them.

I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up.  That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.

Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.  However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.  Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.  Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.

The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.

Save the rest of the tomatoes for pasta alla norma.

The remaining capers will keep indefinitely in the fridge once opened.  They’re great with smoked salmon, lemon, and dill for a weekend brunch.


Pasta Olives Tomatoes Capers or Puttanesca

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

pasta olives tomatoes capers

Pungent, earthy, and ready in minutes, this pasta puttanesca goes great with a full-bodied red wine. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy a great meal.


  • 1/4 lb spaghetti, linguine or long, dried pasta (about the diameter of a quarter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 can (use half of the 15 oz size if you can find it), otherwise 1/4 of a 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 2T black Niçoise olives
  • 1T drained capers
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped


  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide saucepan (or a Dutch oven)
  2. Add a pinch of salt and the spaghetti; cook the pasta until al dente (tender, but not mushy). Drain right away and transfer to a small pasta plate or bowl.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes and the olive oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once the tomato/oil mixture is boiling, individually add the oregano, pepper flakes, olives, capers, and garlic. Stir after each additional ingredient.
  5. Turn the heat down a bit and keep cooking the sauce until it thickens. Adding a bit of the pasta water will help thicken it.
  6. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve. A chunk of crusty bread will help sop up the sauce.

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Chicken Sausage

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

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