Spaghetti Putanesca

23rd May 2001

I came across spaghetti putanesca for the first time when some friends cooked it one evening. This recipe is my attempt to recreate that uniquely powerful flavour of that meal with a minimum of effort. Consequently, I'm using tinned tomatoes instead of fresh ones: I don't believe this makes the slightest difference, since the much more powerful garlic, chili, caper, olive and anchovy flavours overwhelm the tomato anyway.

See my chicken dhansak recipe for my thoughts on accuracy of quantities.

This recipe serves two people as specified here, but since the sauce is so pungently flavoured, you can easily stretch it to four people by cooking double the quantity of spaghetti and giving each person a half-portion of sauce. Or you can just double the quantities.

This is a wonderful recipe. Trust me.

It should take about fifteen to twenty minutes.



  1. Warm the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and melt the butter in it.
  2. Lightly fry the garlic for a minute or so.
  3. Add the chilis and fry for another minute.
  4. Add the onion and fry for five minutes, until it has become fairly soft. If you need to add more oil to prevent sticking, go ahead.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, holding back any excess liquid for now. If you're using the sun-dried tomato paste or tomato puree, add it now.
  6. Mix well and let it all simmer for five minutes, reducing a little. If the mixture gets too dry, you can add either some red wine or the juice from the tin of tomatoes.
  7. Add the capers, olives, anchovies and herbs. Simmer for a few more minutes.
  8. Serve over spaghetti.

Go on, eat it, it's good. Quickly, before it gets cold!

Feedback to <> is welcome!