How to Make Puttanesca Sauce Recipe 

Only recently did I learn how to make a puttanesca sauce recipe. It is fairly new to the Italian cuisine dating only as far back as the twentieth century.

Although being called a pasta dish, it solely lies in the seasonings of the sauce which is very spicy. The name in Italian meaning “whore style” or “in the style of a prostitute“, was first documented in an Italian novel in 1961. Legend is that the ladies of the evening concocted a spicy sauce to entice “clients” into their brothels. 

How to Make Puttanesca Sauce RecipeHow to Make Puttanesca Sauce Recipe

It is said to have been made with anchovies, lots of oregano, spicy peppers and many other ingredients. This is funny to me because as a kid I made spaghetti sauce at home and with the exception of anchovies, I thought it was all made like this; hot, spicy and lots of seasoning. The original recipe is said to have included almost anything leftover that would fit into a tomato based sauce then cooked down until thick. The fragrance of this spicy sauce as it cooked would entice and draw in all the men within a wide range of the area. Maybe this is where the saying comes from “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”.

JUST A NOTE OF INTEREST: I was discussing this recipe with my daughter. One summer she spent a lot of time in Italy particularly Florence. She and her friends were walking in the “Red Light” section of Florence when someone told them they need to avoid that area. Evidently, women were learning how to make puttanesca sauce recipe because she could smell it as they walked down the street to leave.


  • ½ Cup olive oil
  • 1 Medium chopped onion
  • 3 Cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ Teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 Teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 Teaspoon dried tarragon

Combine ingredients in a heavy cooking pan and sauté until onions are tender; add the following:

  • 2 Large cans peeled crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Can tomato paste
  • ½ Cup ground pine nuts
  • 1 Jar drained capers
  • 6 Minced anchovy filets
  • 1 Tablespoon honey

Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with pasta and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.


Learn how to make this puttanesca sauce recipe with leftover turkey. 

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Small chopped onion
  • 2 Cloves minced garlic
  • 3 Anchovy fillets rinsed patted dry and chopped
  • 3 ½ Cups canned pureed tomatoes
  • 2/3 Cup chopped black olives
  • 2 Teaspoons dried basil
  • 4 Tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 Small chopped hot pepper
  • 4 to 5 Cups cooked turkey
  • Salt/ pepper to taste

Sauté onion in hot oil until tender; add garlic and anchovy until garlic is golden.

Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer; cook 2 minutes.

Add olives, basil and hot pepper; simmer uncovered about 10 minutes.

Stir in turkey and simmer 5 minutes longer; serve with pasta.


This puttanesca sauce recipe is enough for a crowd or divide in small containers and freeze. It is made from scratch with fresh tomatoes and is very good.

  • 6 Pounds plum sauce tomatoes
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil
  • 1 Cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/3 Cup flour
  • ½ Teaspoon sugar
  • 6 Cloves minced garlic
  • 3 Pieces orange peel (1 inch strips)
  • ½ Cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ Teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ Teaspoon dried coriander
  • 2 Jars drained capers
  • 12 Anchovy fillets, mashed
  • ½ Cup finely chopped black olives
  • Chopped hot peppers (As desired for spiciness)
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • ½ Teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ Teaspoon celery seed
  • 4 Tablespoons tomato paste

Plunge tomatoes in boiling water then quickly in cold to loosen peel.

Cut in half and gently squeeze out the seeds; coarsely chop (should be 8 cups).

Heat oil in heavy Dutch oven; cook onions until tender.

Stir flour into onion mixture for about 2 minutes not letting it brown.

Add remaining ingredients and slowly cook, stirring often.

Cook and stir until thickened (be careful not to scorch); add more seasoning if needed.

› Italian Puttanesca

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