Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

The name of this typical Italian dish is funny because “puttanesca” means “prostitute style.”

The story of this pasta is very old; the first recipe appeared in 1844 in a very famous cookbook by Ippolito Cavalcanti, the Cucina teorico-pratic. It is a recipe from the popular Neapolitan cuisine called Vermicelli all'oglio con olive capperi ed alici salse ("vermicelli with oil, olives, capers and salted anchovies")—very similar to the Puttanesca we cook today.

Titian's "Venus of Urbino" - possibly a portrait of the courtesan, Zaffeta

The dish, under its current name, first appears in gastronomic literature in the 1960s, but no one knows why this delicious pasta has such a strange name. It seems possible that an owner of a pleasure house used to cook this recipe for his prostitutes in Naples. It really doesn't matter! It is a very easy recipe to prepare. I cook it often because it’s full of taste, and when you don’t have anything in the fridge but a jar of capers, a jar of black olives, and a can of tomatoes, you’ll be able to cook a fantastic Italian dish!

If you want to cook something hot, salty, easy, and delicious, try this classic spaghetti recipe—the real taste of Italy! In the traditional recipe from Naples, capers and anchovies are not used, but I prefer this richest version!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

14 oz. (400 grams) spaghetti

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced

4 anchovies, rinsed if packed in salt, roughly chopped

½ tsp chilli flakes

2 oz (50 grams) black olives

1 Tbsp capers

1 can tomato sauce